Hammond to end non existent “war on motorist”

Two blogs in a day is rather more than my usual quota, but reports of Philip Hammond’s first encounter with the press have sent me into deepest depression. He is quoted as saying that he woud end Labour’s “war on the motorist”, a ridiculous concept born emanating from the Daily Mail and the fantasy world of Clarkson.

This is utterly dispiriting in two ways. First, having gone into government with another party, such ridiculously partisan pronouncements suggest there is not going to be any Libdem influence on transport. But secondly, why does Hammond feel he has to play these sort of populist politics, given there is not going to be an election for another five years. If that is his level of the understanding of transport, then we are in for a fallow few years.

  • Greg. Tingey

    Ask a Question in the House:
    “Does the Hon. memebr for Runnymede & Weybridge travel to Westminster by train, or not?
    If not, why not, and if he does, from where has he acquired this mythical idea that there is a “War” on the motorist??”

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  • Colin Brown

    It’s so sad that after Lord Adonis we have gone back to type with another talentless lightweight Transport Secretary. Slightly staying onto politics, it’s clear to me that there is only one member of the new cabinet with outstanding talent, and that is Ken Clark.

  • At least Crossrail doesn’t appear to have been axed.

    Looks like the the other two transport ministers are also conservatives.

  • Dan

    Yes, is it Villiers for Rail Minister? – an actual demotion from her previous brief….

    This Lib Dem input strikes me as having been worth very little – all the libs in the tent are obviously very much on the right wing of the party and thus very Tory freindly – and has been put to me simply only not Tories due to the differences on the EU. If I was a left wing liberal I’d be very annoyed I think – esp as the actions of Clegg will mean they will probably lose seats in the end (unless they agree not to stand against each other in the next election in local pacts – which they won’t as the Tories will want to be shot of them as soon as they can).

    Things would seem different if people like Norman Baker had been given jobs – but they have not. I’d have been prepared to believe it was a different political approach, but it isn’t really.

    Colin – as for Ken Clark – no doubt a heavy weight but this is the chap who was a consultant to British American Tobacco (may still be) yet had a local tobacco factory and a major employer for his constituents owned by Imperial Tobacco – their main rival – near his patch. Whatever you think about the smoking lobby I thought that was rather like a 2 fingered salute to your own constituents!

  • RapidAssistant

    The most visible way of “waging a war” on motorists is to increase fuel duty – that’s what the right wing Tory tabloids were making the biggest song and dance about. I doubt very much if we will see any reduction of the increases that Labour introduced – for the simple reason we can’t afford it.

    Equally – road pricing had more or less been kicked into the long grass by Labour anyway. In short, this is a transport minister with nothing to say.

  • Ian Raymond

    At this point, no doubt ATOC will lead a strong unified front of operators and the industry as a whole, lobbying the new government to prove the case for continued rail investment rather than cutbacks, and showing how vital the modal shift is…

    If only!

  • Chris Sharp

    I guessing that Hammond has forgotten the fuel duty escalator brought in by Ken Clarke and quickly scrapped by Labour. The war on motorists started and finished in the 1990’s.

    Anyone remember when Labour stopped preaching about modal change?

  • William

    Perhaps Mr Hammond would care to explain how making motorists pay their way and obey the law constitutes a ‘war’.

  • David

    I understand Norman Baker has now been named as an Under-Secretary of State for Transport.

    Will be interesting to see how responsibilities are split; lets hope its Baker who gets responsibility for railways, and not Villiers

  • Steve

    It’s too early to judge on the transport front. Let’s look at another apparent compromise. Chris Huhne appears to have given opposition to new nuclear power stations. However, he’s made it clear that he won’t support financial subsidy for the nuclear industry, which can’t function without state subsidy. Neat, eh?

  • Steve

    Sorry – a mis-post. I meant to write ‘given up on opposition’!

  • Peter

    I own a car and sometimes drive it at weekends. This does not, as far as I’m concerned, make me a “Motorist”. I wonder the definition of this strange breed is. Could it be someone who believes they have the divine right to drive their car exactly when and where they want, as fast as they want, park it where they like however inconvenient to others, be as polluting as they want, ban all riff-raff (ie buses) from roads, and do all this for next to nothing? This seems to be the definition that the popular press, Clarkson, and indeed presumably Hammond, subscribe to and fight their corner for.

    How very depressing.

  • James Johnson

    After the last election the Railway Forum did a map of railway lines and parliamentary constituencies, coloured according to political party. I have it on my wall!

    Indeed I asked the Forum a couple of years ago – while it still existed! – if they planned to do another map at this election. They said they would consider it.

    I wonder if another organisation could pick this up?

  • Keith

    As the average life of a transport minister in this country is less than 18 months I doubt Mr Hammond will much time to defend the interests of the road lobby before the first reshuffle.

  • Gary

    Whilst I support the railways I find Mr Woolmar completely biased in favour of railways and little else. I guess the tax I pay on the petrol for my car is the same as that paid by the railways…..oh, hang on……no it isn’t. They get it for comparatively next to nothing as red diesel. And the road tax. And the insurance tax. And the purchase tax. Non existant war on motorist – tosh! Get on yer bike.

  • Dan

    Gary – you don’t pay tax on your petrol for services to you as a motorist – you pay tax because govt can charge it, – they are not related and never will be (like you don’t pay tax on cigs to provide services for smokers or tax on booze to keep pubs open) – I really don’t understand why so many people can’t understand this.

    ….or maybe they can – and just deliberatly want to muddy the argument

    Mind you at least tax on petrol is optional (you don’t have to buy petrol) – unlike tax on electricity bill or food etc.

  • RapidAssistant

    The railways use red diesel Gary?? I thought it was only farmers that were allowed to put it in their tractors……hmmmm not sure about your claim. Any industry insiders want to enlighten me?

  • John

    If Mr Hammond wants to look at railway cuts, what about trimming the elaborate proposal for Bromsgrove ?
    Bromsgrove Station has one platform that is fine, the other that is too short. The short platform cannot be extended because of a bridge over the railway. Obvious answer is to demolish the bridge, build a new one that gives space to extend that one platform. With a longer platform, more trains from Worcester could stop at Bromsgrove.
    The consultant’s expensive plan is to build a totally new station (further from the housing estates) at a flabbergasting cost. Daft expensive schemes are a war on the railway, forcing reluctant people to drive fills the roads and is ‘war on the motorist’.

  • Michael Weinberg

    It’s quite telling that the very first concrete proposal for cutting the deficit is an attack on railways. Nothing about what road programmes are going to be rigorously examined on a value for money basis.
    Most other ministers have been quite circumspect in announcing where cuts will fall, but the weak Mr. Hammond hopes to gain political kudos by jumping the gun.
    in actual fact the size of the deficit is so large that if you cut subsidy to the railways altogether it would hardly make any difference.
    It will be interesting to see what happens when the inevitable deterioration in services becomes so marked for Tory constituencies that the true stupidity of Hammond’s knee-jerk reactions comes home to roost.
    Incidentally as a Lib-Dem voter I emphatically did not vote Lib-Dem to put a Tory Govt in office. Shame on them!

  • David

    I don’t think Michael Weinburg’s comment is 100% correct; here in the East Midlands, the planned widening of the A453 between the M1 and Nottingham was abandoned before any mention was made of reviews of rail rolling stock plans.

    But doesn’t the need to re-examine these plans confirm what many have been arguing for some time? Many – politicians in particular – have put forward the view that the growth in rail passenger numbers was due to privatisation, whilst those of us old enough to remember the boom and bust cycles of the British economy have believed that such growth was due to the sustained period of economic growth, and that when the inevitable downturn came, it would have a negative effect upon passenger numbers; either growth would slow down or numbers would fall. Obviously some growth is due to privatisation – BR wouldn’t have been able to double the frequency of services on the Midland main line in the way that National Express did with the original franchise, and by capitalising on the suppressed demand for regular services from Kettering, Market Harborough, etc to London this increased significantly the numbers using Midland main line services – but growth in major conurbations would have happened anyway, as it would on many other main routes.

    How the coalition government reacts to public transport will also be a good indicator as to how serious they are about cost cutting; the re-creation of a single organisation similar to British Rail would cut costs considerably, even if it remained in the private sector, but I doubt the Conservatives will admit they got it badly wrong back in the 1990s. Moreover, lets not forget that it was Margaret Thatcher’s government which forced BR to transfer the responsibility for designing traction and rolling stock to the private sector; the origins of having to pay about £1.5m per vehicle go back to that decision, for the investment rules BR worked under could not have justified such a sum and new vehicles meeting today’s requirements would have been designed accordingly. The Mk lll was designed to be built at low cost and to have low maintenance costs, and the design was such that it could be significantly refreshed at 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 life overhauls; moreover, the family of EMUs which started with the class 317s was designed so that they could be built on the same design of jigs as Mk llls (in fact, some of 317 cars were built at Derby on the same jigs as had been used for Mk llls), thereby reducing manufacturing costs for these builds. At the time of the transfer, the perceived wisdom was that competition would result in rolling stock prices falling, but this clearly hasn’t been the case; moreover, amalgamation of most of the rolling stock manufacturers into three large groups (Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens) won’t have helped, as they have no doubt gradually increased sale prices in the UK so that they are more in line with those in Continental Europe (back in the 1970s/1980s, BR paid significantly less for its rolling stock than most other Western European operators).

  • Michael Weinberg

    I dont think one example disproves my case that the emphasis on cutting railway expenditure was done with almost indecent haste, wheras as far as I am aware there has been no corresponding, and announced with a fanfare cutting of specific road projects.
    We have gone from a Secretary of State wholeheartedly backing rail transport to one who is openly antagonistic, in the true traditions of most Tory holders of that office.
    If the Lib-Dems who were supportive of the railways before the election are still of that inclination, then so far, and I admit it is early days, we have seen little evidence of it!

  • Dan

    No – it’s here after all – ‘the war on the motorist’.

    I enjoyed Ian Marchant’s book on UK rail (Parallel Lines I think it is called) – he has a rather good blog and I just spotted this entry. The Sec of State has clearly let him down….

    Read on:


  • Hex

    Gary: “And the road tax.”

    Sorry mate, we haven’t had a “road tax” since 1937.

    http://ipayroadtax.com/ has the details.

  • ..and what a rant that site is? They need to get a life.

  • Dan

    Hex – great link – really useful site – thanks