Interview with British Transport Secretary / attitudes towards the car

From: Simon Field []  Sent: Saturday, 26 March, 2011 12:32

The Guardian interviewed Philip Hammond last week: you can read Andrew Sparrow’s piece in full here: Throughout the interview you will see that Hammond refers to carbon as the problem, largely ignoring or dismissing other concerns about the car.

On high-speed rail and the capacity argument:

· “And the benefits that we will generate by this strategic investment in rail are substantial and they would not be matched by £17bn’s worth of micro-investments in regional rail.

· “The important point is that, if you attribute value to usable time on a train, then you also get pretty quickly to a point where overcrowding erodes that value, because how much work you can do on a train depends on the conditions you’re in […] the West Coast mainline is going to become completely saturated by the early years of the next decade.”

On speed limits:
“Things like speed limits, whether you are talking about higher speed limits on motorways or lower speed limits in residential areas, should be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Discussion around speed limits has usually been driven by emotive arguments around, “this could save x number of casualties”, without looking at the costs.”
Yes, how foolish of them… value of life is of course used in project appraisal.

On cycling and the abolition of Cycling England:
“We’ve absorbed the cycling agenda into the department’s mainstream activities. We don’t believe we need a separate quango to do it.”
A question about funding cuts was not answered properly. Hammond does not cycle in London.

On aviation:
“What would the argument against a runway be if aviation at some point in the future had become carbon-free and silent, or virtually silent?”
Mystic Simon predicts perpetual motion is just around the corner…

On buses:
“I could not, offhand, tell you when the last time I was on a bus was.”
You will get much the same answer from anyone with access to a car when they need it. Whatever happened to the aspirations in the 1998 policy paper From workhorse to thoroughbred: a better role for bus travel?

Although much of this was to be expected, I am increasingly concerned about the influence of those advising government (of whatever colour). The arch-conservatism of civil servants at the Department of Transport and Treasury should not be underestimated. Roads for prosperity-type thinking is widespread even now, non-motorised trips are not considered to be proper transport (note the incorrect % of trips vs % of pkm statistic quoted by Hammond) and the Treasury dislikes projects that reduce fuel consumption and tax revenues.

Underpinning all of this is a fear of being seen to be anti-car, including diverting money from roads into other transport projects: does anyone know if the following research on the gap between politicians’ fears and reality has been updated?



2 thoughts on “Interview with British Transport Secretary / attitudes towards the car

  1. Pingback: Interview with British Transport Secretary / attitudes towards the car (via Network Dispatches) | World Streets and the New Energy Spring

  2. When I was a kid in Los Angeles (near UCLA) I used to take the 83 bus 20 miles downtown to visit stamp and coin dealers.
    My friends’ parents would say: “Buses? We have buses? Downtown? We have a downtown”?

    Looks like we need to send our republican Transport Secretary Ray Lahood to the UK to take the UK Secretary on a sustainable transport trip. Take him to Richmond on Thames where I lived to listen to the jets land. He can certainly try out my old commuter train from Waterloo to Teddington. I can send him our study of high speed rail whose lead author, Andrew Kosinski, is god forbid British and will soon move back there. We can ask him about the UK company car benefits and how THEY undermine the quest for fewer, smaller cars emitting less of everything.
    Lee Schipper
    Berkeley and Stanford


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