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Britain at the political roundabout

Short circuit: Britons are waiting to see if transport projects such as more electric-vehicle charging points are retained by the UK's new government.

Eye on budget cuts, election promises in UK as Hammond takes top transport job

General News logo13 May 2010

BRITAIN’S new Conservative-led government, which is in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, has named Conservative MP Philip Hammond as secretary of state for transport.

Mr Hammond was previously shadow chief secretary to the treasury, and was expected to move into the chief secretary to treasury role before the Tories were forced to compromise with the Lib Dems.

Liberal Democrat David Laws now takes on that role, and will almost certainly make substantial cuts to the transport budget as the new government slashes costs.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers is one of a number of shadow cabinet ministers to miss out now the Tories are in office, and pundits are now watching to see how many of the party’s promised transport reforms are now taken up.

 center imageLeft: UK transport secretary Philip Hammond. Below: Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers.

In a number of speeches prior to the election, Ms Villiers vowed to ease motor vehicle congestion and improve traffic flow with the widespread removal of traffic lights, and to crack down on “irresponsible road works” – seen as a major cause of traffic delays – through bigger fines and a tougher permit approval process.

“We'll crack down on anyone that takes an irresponsible approach to road works without regard for the travel misery they can cause,” she said.

“We desperately need to address the self-evident problems caused by the fact that the utilities who take the decisions about where, when, and how long to take digging up the roads do not bear any of the economic cost of the congestion they cause.”

On the other hand, Ms Villiers said the Tory party would provide incentives to utilities to install electric vehicle charging points to encourage consumers to switch to EVs, and that it would use its discretion on fuel excise, cutting duty when oil prices rise to avoid extremely high prices at the pump.

“So when oil prices go up, the government shares the pain and gives families a helping hand – and not a kick in the teeth,” she said.

The Tories also promised not to fund any new fixed speed cameras, and to “scrap Labour’s misguided plans for a ‘spy-in-the-sky’ national road pricing scheme”.

“Leave aside the fact that it's an IT disaster waiting to happen. Just consider the big brother implications: Labour's plans would track the movement of every vehicle on every road in this country 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” Ms Villiers said.

The other main policy area was to encourage more public transport patronage through major investment in high-speed rail.

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