Montague heads list for HS2 job

City grandee Sir Adrian Montague has emerged as the frontrunner to chair High Speed 2, the much-criticised £32bn London to Scotland rail link.

The Department for Transport is accelerating the recruitment of a chairman who can build support for HS2. A shortlist was drawn-up last week, barely a month after headhunter Odgers Berndtson began sounding out candidates.

Sir Adrian, who counts the chairmanships of private equity company 3i and Anglian Water Group among his many jobs, has made the final four. Several candidates have ruled themselves out, including former transport secretary Lord Adonis, who wants to pursue his political career, and Terry Morgan, who has renewed his three-year contract as Crossrail's chairman.

Sir Adrian is a former deputy chairman at Network Rail and chairman at Cross London Rail Links, the company set-up to oversee Crossrail.

A shock candidate could be Michael Portillo, the former defence secretary who hosts the BBC's Great British Railway Journeys programme, for his political nous and appeal to Middle Englanders who oppose HS2.