The revolving door at the Department for Transport has swung today and delivered the eighth Transport Secretary in eight years, with former Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin replacing Justine Greening who refused to meet with Stop HS2 campaigners during her 10 months in the post.
Mr McLoughlin previously held a junior role in the DfT from 1989-92 and is a former miner and farm worker. He represents the most rural constituency in Derbyshire, Derby Dales, but with this being to the west of Derby all the way up to the border with Yorkshire, it is highly unlikely that this would be impacted by any proposed Stage 2 route for HS2. Mr McLoughlin is considered to be sympathetic to countryside issues and is a keen walker. Chelmsford MP Simon Burns who recently met Justine Greening to lobby for rail improvements in his constituency, replaces Theresa Villiers as Minister for Transport.
Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan has today lost her job as Welsh Secretary in the reshuffle, saying she could “Serve the party from the backbenches too.”, prompting comments that she should do more to serve her constituents.
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“We welcome the appointment of Mr McLoughlin, who seems at first glance far more aware of the world around him than the two previous secretaries of state and has already spent more time in the DfT than them both put together. Given his background, we hope the new man in the DfT will be far more receptive than Justine Greening, who refused to even meet with us during her ten months in the job. We hope to put our case to both the new Minister and Secretary of State as soon as possible.”
“We had been expecting the consultations on compensation and land safeguarding, along with the publication of stage 2 of the route to happen in the next week or so, but surely, like when Justine Greening was appointed and delayed publishing the HS2 public consultation results, there will now be a rethink and a delay. To do anything else would be irresponsible and we will be pressing for a complete rethink on HS2, hoping that Mr McLoughlin will see the importance of an integrated transport infrastructure solution for Britain opposed to this ill thought out grand projet.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said:
“With the replacement of the two top jobs at the Department for Transport, it’s clear that David Cameron realises that their Transport policy needs a rethink. Although the current focus is on aviation policy, it’s clear that HS2 does not fit into any sensible aviation policy. Almost soon as Justine Greening announced that she wanted HS2 to go ahead, speculation on the need for a third runway started up, showing that HS2 is not a replacement for a third runway at Heathrow.”
“In addition HS2 does not integrate with the plans for the rail network announced earlier this year. The HS2 plans do not include any stations between London and Birmingham, even though it crosses the planned “Electric Spine” from the North-East to the South coast. An integrated railway system would have an interchange station where HS2 crosses other railway lines. Given recent news that the designers of HS2 have massively reduced the value of Green Belt and AONB land, so as to artificially boost the case for HS2, we hope that an MP for a rural constituency like Derbyshire Dales will see through ruses like this and recognise that HS2 is hugely environmentally damaging.”
“In addition, in a time of recession, it is vital that the government spends money carefully. At the earliest, construction of HS2 will not start until 2017, and the rail link will not open until at least 2026. HS2 will do nothing to help Britain out of recession.”
On the issue of Cheryl Gillan, Independent Chiltern Councillor Seb Berry said;
“No-one in the AONB will be shedding a tear for the former Welsh Secretary. She chose to put government career and loyalty to the Prime Minister ahead of her own constituency and deprived her constituents of a voice in Parliament on HS2 in the process. Today’s decision by the Prime Minister means that there are no excuses anymore. Will Cheryl Gillan now finally stand alongside her constituents in unambiguously and vociferously opposing HS2? Now that she is free of any collective Ministerial responsibility for HS2, that is the very least that our MP can do.”