Talking to a well informed source at the Rail awards last night, I learnt that the Department for Transport has become one of the first departments to agree a budget with the Treasury. The transport secretary, Philip Hammond, has not only accepted the Treasury figure, but he has done so quickly because he wanted to jump over the table to sit on the other side of the Star Chamber. So now he will sit alongside Osborne and Alexander pronouncing on the budgets of other departments.
In a way that is hardly surprising. Hammond never wanted to be Transport Secretary. He is a Treasury man through and through, and now, with Osborne about to become the most unpopular man in Britain after Ashley Cole, he must reckon that, having been shafted over the Chief Secretary job because of the deal with the Libdems, he has a chance of the big job in a year or two. By the time the damage he is wreaking in transport starts to become apparent, Hammond will not be in Marsham Street.
The deal he has struck is over the overall transport budget, currently around the £17bn mark. How the cuts divide up between the different modes will, to a large extent, be up to him. Watch out for cuts in bus support – poss increasing the age of the pensioners’ pass – cutting back on roads investment, fuel tax rises and VED increases, disguised to fit along environmental lines. The big rail capital programmes such as Crossrial and Thameslink will prob survive, but watch for deep cuts elsewhere in railway investment.