Well, Mystic Wolmar got the surname of the new Transport Secretary right, as he is indeed called Hammond, but it is Philip and not Stephen. This is certainly a bolt from the blue, as this Hammond was a shadow Treasury minister and regularly appeared on television accusing Labour of profligacy.
I can’t see this as being good news. Theresa Villiers [who she? ed] had already indicated that no rail project was secure under the Tories and Hammond is the man who conducted the waste review for the Tories, so we can see where he is likely to come from. If anyone had any illusions that the railways were going to escape cuts, then they should surely be dissipated now.
One good thing is that Hammond may be prepared to get his teeth into Network Rail, and its inflated costs, but it would take a lot of forensic work and a great attention to detail to bring the rogue company to book. Apart from that, the value for money assessment of rail projects promised by Villiers is likely to lead to considerable pruning. The word one associates with Hammond is ‘dry’.
We await the junior appointments with interest. If it is a Libdem, such as Norman Baker, or someone who knows the railways, such as the other Hammond – though pity the poor civil servants who have to sort out the mail – then there is a chance that someone will be batting for the rail industry. Otherwise there are lots of danger signals ahead.