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Changing track


A new team of Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers is in charge at Marsham Street. Paul Clifton assesses its priorities and goals

elcome Philip Hammond, secretary of state for transport. Not quite the

person we might

have expected; Theresa Villiers had shadowed the job, and has ended up with the number two role as minister of state. The Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker had built solid expertise in the subject, and gets a more junior role as parliamentary under secretary of state. Alongside him is Mike Penning, former shadow health minister. Hammond said at once that the biggest

challenge facing the government is the need to reduce the financial deficit. The main mechanism for achieving this will be cuts to public expenditure rather than additional taxation. That sets the tone for the new ministers’ tenure. The road lobby is already angling for its slice of what will be a smaller cake. Professor Stephen Glaister of the RAC Foundation points out that road users contribute £47bn to the government, whereas rail sucks money out of it. Car drivers contribute 4p a mile in taxes, he says, whereas rail passengers cost the Treasury 21p a mile. Hammond has shadowed a succession

of key posts in health and the Treasury over more than a decade, but never shown noticeable fascination for the brief he now holds. An Oxford graduate and wealthy businessman, he is the MP for Runnymede and Weybridge. So in this commuter belt constituency, he should certainly be up to speed on the issues facing passengers into central London. Or should he? Track his expenses claims online and he has made one of the lowest claims for rail travel of any MP, ranking 540th out of 647 and spending only £225 on trains in 2008-09, compared with £1,800 car mileage.

PAGE 16 JUNE 2010

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