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Philip Hammond opens a new platform at King’s Cross in 2010, with representatives from Tocs and Network Rail

High Speed Two is going to be a major new piece of transport infrastructure

burn. But he protests: ‘I’ve never been a slasher and burner. When I was shadow chief secretary, I always thought the job was more about surgical excision. It’s about cutting away the bits that don’t have any value without cutting into the life support structure. There is a surprisingly large amount you can cut away before doing any real damage. And, actually, the fi rst bit of cutting improves the health of the body. ‘We’ve always been clear that we didn’t think that

the solution to the fi scal challenge was cutting capital spending. That played very nicely to the transport agenda. Infrastructure investment is crucial to growth – fi scal consolidation cannot come through cutting capital expenditure; the business sector has always made it very clear that infrastructure investment is very important to them – and transport investment is very high up amongst that. I think it was a dialogue of the willing. The chancellor is certainly up for supporting business through selective and high-value infrastructure investment, and that clearly is where this department sees its focus.’ A week earlier, he had spoken with surprising

passion in Manchester about the need for us northerners to speak up for High Speed Two in the face of growing

PAGE 20 MAY 2011

opposition in the Cotswolds. Was he on a recruiting drive? ‘I hope I don’t have to be recruiting,’ he says. ‘But

there are an awful lot of people who think this is a done deal. It is a project that clearly has the support of all three political parties, and I think there is a danger of some of the people who will benefi t most thinking they don’t have to get out of bed and argue the case. ‘The people who think that they will suffer from

it, however, will not rest and make their case very aggressively, and probably quite effectively.’ He dismisses, however, the business leaders and

politicians who that morning had shouted their opposition in the Daily Telegraph as ‘climate-change deniers and truck importers’. Civic and business leaders in the great northern

cities, he says, need to speak up more. ‘They are clearly supportive. When you go and speak to them, they are effusive in their support but they are going to have to stir themselves to make the case more aggressively.’ Of course, those very people have other things on

their mind, too – the most pressing being easing the congestion around the Northern Hub. The two are inextricably linked, Hammond insists. ‘If somebody had said in 1955, “I’ve got a plan for re-organising our A roads to make them operate better” – and then announced the coming of the motorways, they would rightly be pilloried if they said: “I’ll just carry on with my 1955 plan for reorganising the A roads and I’ll ignore the motorway network.”

Network Rail

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