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Rail Professional interview: Philip Hammond

Infrastructure investment is crucial to growth

A year into the job of transport secretary, Philip Hammond talks to Alan Salter about his strategy for the railways


ike buses, you wait ages for a decent Transport Secretary… and then two come along at once. Those of us who monitor these things –

there have been 30 holders of the post since Barbara Castle – weren’t really expecting

great things from the last two. But the unelected Adonis turned out to be rather good at his job and Philip Hammond is defying his treasury roots to champion the cause of spending money on the railways. I was on a train full of railway magazine journalists

when the coalition cabinet appointments trickled out via wi-fi last year. Surely, we thought, they have made a mistake. Not Philip Hammond but Stephen Hammond, the MP for Wimbledon and already the shadow rail minister? Hammond (P) admits it was as much of a shock

to him. ‘Until about the Monday (10 May, 2010 – four days after the general election), I hadn’t thought about doing any job other than chief secretary to the treasury. Then the penny dropped that if we were to go forward

it would have to be in coalition and that would mean some changes.’ Refreshingly, he makes no attempt to claim

transport was the job he always really wanted. ‘It’s a fair bet that, if we had formed a Conservative-only administration, I would have been chief secretary to the treasury. My heart didn’t sink when it was transport but obviously the realisation that you are not going to get the job that you have actually been working towards for three years, and you feel very well prepared for, was a kind of seminal moment. ‘But looking beyond that, transport, in a sense,

is one of the more interesting departments – lots of capital spending projects and a big project focus in the department. In many ways, it embodies two of the key coalition priorities – economic growth and decarbonisation, which are captured rather neatly in the transport portfolio. And I have strong views on transport, as everyone does.’ We feared, when we learned of his appointment, that he would arrive in Marsham Street to slash and

MAY 2010 Y 2011 PAGE 19

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