Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

High speed on the march

Posted in Great Britain, Lord Adonis, Philip Hammond, Politics by Chairman Pip on 12 May 2010

The new government, formed of two parties that have both opposed the third runway at Heathrow, have now formally scrapped that proposal and endorsed High Speed 2. However, if the Conservatives election manifesto is to be believed, they are not going with the proposal that was released in March by Lord Adonis, and are instead going to take it back to discussion, presumably favouring their own idea of a single line connecting London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. This may well see the initial route changed to avoid some of the Conservative heartland constituencies that run through the Chilterns, and have proven to be an extremely sore point ever since the proposed route was announced. And yet, the plan is also intended to begin construction BEFORE the previous government’s timetable (intended to start after the completion of Crossrail). What we need to find out first of all is who exactly the new Secretary of State for Transport will be – we know that it probably won’t be a Liberal Democrat, as the planned five cabinet posts for them have already been filled. There seems to be scuttlebutt that it will be Philip Hammond, but we’ve had no confirmation of this at all (suggesting that Transport is WAAAAAAAAY down the list of important jobs to be handed out). But, whoever gets the job will have serious choices to make about priorities, given the likelihood that transport will suffer significant budget cuts. The big project currently on the books is Crossrail – both partners are in favour of it, but George Osborne (the Chancellor) has said that he would need to look at the public finances before giving a guarantee, while Vince Cable (the President of the Board of Trade) has given it a guarantee provided it doesn’t go over budget. Given what has been said about the project, and how important it is to London’s economy, plus the fact that the man ultimately responsible for identifying the public spending requirements is David Laws (the Chief Secretary to the Treasury), a party colleague of Vince Cable, may possibly (possibly) see a firm commitment from the government to go forward with Crossrail. However, there has been very little specifically about transport in the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition document that has been released, with the Heathrow and HS2 proposals under the umbrella term “environment”. For a little more detail on what the two parties said they’d do specifically in regards to the railways, you can look at their manifesto commitments.

Edit

Philip Hammond has been confirmed as the Secretary of State for Transport. We’ll see I guess whether he is as pro-rail as his predecessor.

Philip Hammond

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2 Responses

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  1. Claire said, on 12 May 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Oh, dear, this sounds a bit of a disappointment for you? I know you were impressed with Lord Adonis.

    • Chairman Pip said, on 12 May 2010 at 10:01 pm

      Yes, I was impressed with Andrew Adonis, but it was more in faint hope than expectation that he would serve in another government. He made it very clear that he wouldn’t serve in a Conservative government, even though (it’s alleged) David Cameron made him an approach. The hope now would be that he would consider becoming an adviser on rail policy, given his knowledge and experience.


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