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Industry responds to new transport secretary appointment

Campaign groups and unions in the rail industry have responded to the appointment of Patrick McLoughlin as the new transport secretary.

McLoughlin, the former chief whip, replaces Justine Greening, who in turn has moved after just 11 months to become secretary of state for international development. Two of the three transport ministers have also been reshuffled to other departments.

The role of transport secretary has become notorious for its short-lived incumbents, which the industry believes can be damaging to the quality and consistency of policy.

The Campaign for Better Transport’s Richard Hebditch wrote on his blog: “Having had eight Transport Secretaries in the last ten years, there's now a real need for consistency and to make sure the Department for Transport delivers for transport users and isn't just a delivery arm for Treasury policy.”

And Aslef agreed that a long-term view was needed. General secretary Mick Whelan said: “Governments don’t give transport anything like the priority it has with the public. By the time ministers get a grip of the brief, they are gone. It is time transport was given the priority in Westminster that it has in the rest of the country. Rail needs long-term planning – and it can’t be done with short-term ministers.”

And the RMT union suggested that the move would present little change from the former transport secretary.

General secretary Bob Crow said: “This is business as usual as far as RMT is concerned. We can expect Patrick McLoughlin to pursue the same cuts and privatisation agenda mapped out in the Government’s McNulty Rail Review. RMT promise him an all-out political and industrial fight to stop job losses, fare increases, ticket office closures and profiteering.

“The new transport secretary will also have the toxic West Coast franchise shambles dumped straight on his desk and there’s plenty of mileage left in that fight as we expose the bankrupt shambles of rail privatisation foisted on the British people by an earlier Tory Government.”

Tony Berkeley, Rail Freight Group chairman, who sits on Rail Technology Magazine's editorial board, said: “We will be writing to brief the minister shortly, outlining the key priorities for the rail freight sector including the forward development of the Strategic Freight Network, the planning framework for rail freight interchanges and ensuring that rail freight can continue to improve its efficiencies as reform of the railways progresses.”

Theresa Villiers was also promoted to the Cabinet in the reshuffle, moving from the Department for Transport to become the new Northern Ireland Secretary, while roads minister Mike Penning has moved with her to become Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office.

Simon Burns MP has been appointed Minister for Transport and Stephen Hammond MP is the new Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, alongside Norman Baker, who is the only transport minister to stay in his current post.

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