Conservative MP Patrick McLoughlin has become Minister of Transport as a result of the current Cabinet reshuffle (previous occupant Justine Greening being moved to International Development).

There are suggestions that the move was at least in part to open up the option of adding a third runway at Heathrow. McLoughlin was Aviation Minister between 1989 and 1992 and Mayor Johnson has already begun vocally arguing that this is the case in the media.

In addition to Greening’s departure, Teresa Villiers has also been moved on. This may have some positives for London, as Villiers has traditionally been regarded as an opponent of Crossrail 2.

Overall, it remains to be seen what consequences the current reshuffle will have for DfT policy. Once again, however, a Department for which long-term thinking and consistency is crucial appears to be suffering from a lack of continuity at the top. As journalist Michael Crick pointed out shortly after the announcement, McLoughlin becomes the 24th living person to have occupied the position of Minister for Transport, and unfortunately there seems to be little sign that this trend is likely to change.

jump to the end
There are 43 comments on this article
  1. Anonymous says:

    A Derbyshire MP as transport secretary. That should add another interesting dimension to rolling stock procurement.

  2. PhilD says:

    guess that’s Bombardier Derby’s short term future assured then…
    It’s smart politics as far as the govt is concerned if they really do want to do a u-turn over a third Heathrow runway. Justine Greening, as the MP for Putney – ie right under the flight path- is sitting on a 10,000 majority, which you’d think would be safe at the next election. But if she approved a 3rd runway whilst at DfT, over the strenuous objections of her constituents.she would be in serious danger of losing her seat. (Bigger swings have happened, this after all was the seat that threw David Mellor out on his ear in 1997) As it is, moving her means she can be seen to lobby hard against it, whilst her successor ignores her and gets on with approving the thing.
    Cynical, moi?

  3. John Bull says:

    Yes, I do wonder if there were some groans within TfL and Crossrail the moment they spotted the Derby connection. As two of the big likely purchasers of rolling stock in coming years, I suspect they’ve already been under a huge amount of pressure to look Derby’s way.

  4. Greg Tingey says:

    Nah, they’ll crawl to the air lobby, approve 3rd runway, then sack or “promote” him, and get Derby works shut.
    After all, there’s a LONG history of crapping on Brit manufacturing, from both this guvmint AND the other lot.

    Even more cynocal moi?

  5. Chris says:

    It doesnt matter where he’s from, he cant just give Bombardier orders because he’s a local MP – and thank god for that.

  6. Anonymous says:

    @ Chris – exactly. All the Government will get is a change of agony from having Greening being reluctant about Heathrow to McLoughlin being reluctant about any rolling stock announcement. Although after IEP the DfT seem to have gently shoved “all” (ho ho!) rolling stock issues to the TOCs. Well the DfT can dream can’t they?

    The lack of longevity of SofS and Ministers in the DfT is shameful. Both Villiers and Penning have gone leaving dear old Norman Baker still stroking a model bus and ITSO Smartcard on his ministerial desk. I wonder who will replace the departed Ministers?

  7. PhilD says:

    No no no, McGloughlin will back HS2, CR@ & 3, save Bombardier Derby, give TfL all of London’s train services, heal the sick, make the blind see and have us all flying unicorns so a 3rd runway isn’t necessary.
    Look, we can all dream a bit can’t we?

  8. John Bull says:

    Steady on!

    Healing the sick is now Jeremy Hunt’s problem.

  9. Anonymous says:

    hehehe – don’t hold your breath, he believes in homeopathy. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about homeopathy and being ideal for transport minister but I’m too tired to work it out right now 🙂

  10. John Bull says:

    I still believe Transport is a job best filled outside of the Commons. Preferably by a Lord with a huge train fetish.

    Unsurprisingly I quite liked Adonis when he was in post.

  11. Mikey C says:

    The 3rd runway won’t happen in this parliament anyway, but having a more ‘neutral’ Secretary means that it can be put on the agenda again.

    Hammond was moved on from the DfT as a reward for being a safe pair of hands, Greening probably moved on for being too involved in one key issue, ministers don’t tend to stick around. I guess one problem for elected politicians is the long lead time involved in projects, Greening announced a massive amount of electrification, but won’t be there to cut the tape, indeed by the time some of the projects happen, it could be 2 elected governments away!

  12. Paul says:

    Ah yes, but the picture has been painted. It is vital that we receive plane loads of Chinese businessmen waving wadges of Reminbi who somehow have learnt to speak and read enough English to navigate Heathrow but are unable to use Skype. It is vital for our future despite the fact that Heathrow is rammed with pithy, half-empty short haul flights run by flag carriers trying to keep their slots. It’s vital despite the fact the government is clamping down on immigration in general, but iffy foreign students – many of them from China – in particular.

    Clear Heathrow of all flights to destinations where Rail capacity can easily meet demand. Clear Heathrow of all flights less than 75% occupied over a 6 month period. Magically the need for a third runway will fly away. But the well-funded airline lobbyists and PR agencies don’t want anyone to know that do they?

  13. swirlythingy says:

    @Paul: I’d watch out making those sorts of arguments against a third runway, because nearly all of them can be equally well applied to rail investment, particularly HS2. Don’t forget that ‘telecommuting’, in particular, is one of the nimbys’ favourite buzzwords.

  14. Slugabed says:

    Paul makes some vert valid points.
    It seems to me that there is an overlooked way of dealing with the Heathrow deadlock.
    What is the usual consequence when demand outstrips supply? There is an effect on price,and Paul has identified why this is not happening at Heathrow.
    I would suggest that the Govt stipulates the number and tme of slots allocated to Heathrow,on a yearly basis.
    These slots are then auctioned,in advance,in open bidding,to any airline who is interested in using that slot.
    Some slots may “price themselves out of the market” ie airlines might realise that they never paid anyway,or that flying from Stanstead/Gatwick/Luton/Birmingham makes more sense.

  15. Red Rozzer says:

    One other thing to note is that the two new Transport Ministers (McLoughlin and Mike Penning) are pretty much the only two working class Conservative MPs (McLoughlin was an NUM activist and strikebreaker in 84-84). A cynical friend wonders if they are being lined up against Bob Crow…

  16. steve says:

    > Justine Greening, as the MP for Putney – ie right under the flight path- is sitting on a 10,000 majority, which you’d think would be safe at the next election. But if she approved a 3rd runway whilst at DfT, over the strenuous objections of her constituents.

    I live in Putney and I can’t really understand why Putney would be a source of massive (legitimate) objection. There is already a flight passing over my head approx every 90 seconds. I can’t really see how a new runway making that every 30 or 60 seconds would make any real difference.

    Note I’m not saying there isn’t / won’t be objection here, I’m sure many people will love to complain and nimby about it, I’m just saying I don’t understand how “oh no, we will go from nearly continuous plane noise to slightly more nearly continuous plane noise” can have any real weight behind it.

  17. Patrickov says:

    Steve had made a point. I technically live in somewhere comparable to Putney, as planes here do go up and down every 90 seconds. But by simple simulation, making it 50% or even 200% more frequent probably doesn’t change too much.

    Nevertheless, it’s by no means a pleasant thing, and I understand why your neighbours are mad.

  18. Josh says:

    In fact, the third runway shouldn’t affect at all since the new traffic would be further to the North. Arguably, it would give a small respite as in the (probably quite short) period before flights grow to similar runway saturation, they’ll be more spread out.

    Now, mixed mode, that would mean an increase.

    The one thing I don’t quite understand about the third runway is why it needs to be a third runway. The alternative proposals for hub airports feature two pairs of closely spaced runways a la CDG or ATL. A third far spaced runway is better, but why is no-one making that suggestion for Heathrow? It would avoid some of the land grab, although it would make the noise footprint more intense. Maybe that’s it? Expansion can only go ahead if the noise is more diluted?

  19. Fandroid says:

    Heathrow needs a third runway already, without any increase in flights. It dissolves into total chaos in adverse weather, especially fog. When it’s foggy they have to double the intervals between takeoffs and between landings, in order to reduce the danger of collisions on the ground.

    An interesting appointment is that of Paul Deighton as Minister for Infrastructure and Economic Delivery. He is currently chief executive of LOCOG, where a fairly big and complex project has been delivered on time. According to the Times he is expected to “force through…. transport projects that are stuck in Whitehall or languishing through lack of funds”

    The new Sec of State for Transport will have a bit of a head-scratcher on rail manufacturing capability. The new Hitachi plant (combined with Bombardier in Derby) will mean that there most definitely will be train assembly over-capacity in the UK, unless both or one can defy the UK loading gauge and get some orders from continental Europe. (I have a vision of train-building in the UK overloading the roads due to a booming export business)

  20. Anonymous says:

    A link from Derby to HS2, then later one from Newton Aycliffe? Probably too late by then though!

  21. timbeau says:

    It has been suggested that the infrastructrure work needed to convert the route from Derby to Boston docks to UIC gauge would be pretty minimal.

  22. Greg Tingey says:

    According to a source, who met McLoughlin yesterday, he understands kettles, if not necessarily modern traction!
    Could be interesting?

  23. Thomas says:

    Do you think they’ll be any changes to how HS2 is regarded in the DfT – might McLoughlin, with his rural derbyshire seat not too far from the route itself, be a bit more sympathetic to the protesters than Greening?

  24. Greg Tingey says:

    au contraire
    I would expect someone wanting faster transit to London – HS2 – would be strongly in favour.

  25. john b says:

    The suggestion that the major airlines aren’t aware of the market value of LHR slots is silly. BA paid gbp200m for BMI solely because of its LHR slots.

    The reason for running flights to Leeds, Manchester etc is for transfer purposes: if a Yorkshireperson can park at Leeds Bradford, transfer easily at T5, and get on a plane to Lagos or Guangdong or Hyderabad, that’s a damn sight more appealing than either parking at Leeds station, getting East Coast and then spending an hour and a bit on the Piccadilly, or braving the M1 and the M25. If you are travelling from Leeds to London, you will not take the plane.

    (a good rule of thumb for internal flights is “do the non-network carriers offer it?” – ie is it profitable solely on the basis of the journey being flown. IIRC Newcastle is the first

  26. john b says:

    …sorry, computer being evil. Newcastle is the first destination in mainland GB that’s served in its own right by Easyjet or Ryanair from London, and the only one in England. Everywhere south of Newcastle rail has already won for point-to-point traffic – the only way to further cut air journeys is to link LHR directly into the transport network and promote integrated ticketing and services between airlines and rail. BA/IAG would be keen to do this, since it would allow it to re-use slots from Manchester and Leeds flights for longer-haul.

  27. Fandroid says:

    Beware of assuming that the ‘non-network’ carriers don’t operate short-haul versions of hubs. My daughter spent a year studying in Denmark in a university that attracted a large number of students from all over Europe. Many of them used Ryanair, transferring at Stansted onto flights to their homes in southern Europe.

    So the viability of some of their UK-only flights almost certainly depends on connections from London to European destinations.

    @John b is right about the need to link LHR properly into the rail network as a way of releasing slots for long-distance flights. However, it’s very unlikely that a direct HS2 connection would be viable. There just aren’t enough potential travellers. What is needed is good connections like a GWML diversion and fast links to the WCML. Rail is a viable alternative to internal flights not least because it can offer a much better frequency of trips (3 per hour to Manchester).

    Having said that, Heathrow Express still pretends that it’s not part of the rail network and makes no effort to sell through tickets to anywhere. It thinks (but is so wrong) that it’s still a better product than the mainline railway. For example, its ticket machines, the size of small garden sheds, sell about five different tickets, whereas those more modestly sized ones we know and love/hate out there on the network sell zillions of tickets to everywhere in the UK.

  28. Anon says:

    I know what this is trying to say… “journalist Michael Crick pointed out shortly after the announcement, McLoughlin becomes the 24th living person to have occupied the position of Minister for Transport, and unfortunately there seems to be little sign that this trend is likely to change.”

    Unfortunately it sounds like you are planning a cull of former transport ministers.

  29. IslandDweller says:

    “Newcastle is the first destination in mainland GB that’s served in its own right by Easyjet or Ryanair from London”
    That’s a wee bit out of date. Easy inherited the Newcastle route when they bought “go”. They dropped it a couple of years ago.
    There are no longer any “low cost” carriers flying any routes between London and another airport in England. I think it adds further emphasis to your point that the NCL / LBA / MAN flights to LHR are all about feeder traffic to long haul.

  30. spotspotter says:

    Island Dweller
    Not quite right – yet!
    Flybe claim to be a low cost airline and say they fly between Exeter and Newcastle and London – havent bothered to check for more.

  31. timbeau says:

    According to Flybe’s website they fly from Gatwick to both Newcastle and Newquay (but not Exeter). Newquay is about 220 miles from Gatwick, Newcastle about 300.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Let’s not forget that Virgin are planning to enter Manchester-London flight market. The bearded one would have us believe that this is re. hub connections but the proposed ticket price would easily undercut the “anytime” railfare. Local BBCTV voxpop at time of announcement found many Mancunians prepared to undergo hassle of airport transfer each end for sake of cheaper fares to capital.

  33. Mikey C says:

    “The reason for running flights to Leeds, Manchester etc is for transfer purposes: if a Yorkshireperson can park at Leeds Bradford, transfer easily at T5, and get on a plane to Lagos or Guangdong or Hyderabad, that’s a damn sight more appealing than either parking at Leeds station, getting East Coast and then spending an hour and a bit on the Piccadilly, or braving the M1 and the M25. If you are travelling from Leeds to London, you will not take the plane.”

    Actually what tends to happen is that people in the regions tend to fly via another hub, e.g. Amsterdam or Dubai, in many ways BA want the 3rd runway, not because they want lots of domestic point to point business, but rather they want to recapture some of this market.

    Whether HS2 can replace domestic connections is a good question, the full benefit won’t come until it reaches Scotland probably.

  34. Fandroid says:

    It’s a bit much for the bearded one to undercut the current (Virgin!!!!!!) anytime fares between Manchester and London. His outfit has perpetuated the ‘falling off a cliff’ differential between off-peak and anytime fares for a long time now. And as Christian Wolmar has pointed out, Virgin have never come to terms with the inherent contradiction of providing a turn-up-and-go service (3tph) where the only cheap tickets require you to book in advance!

  35. Alan Griffiths says:

    Fandroid07:57AM, 7th September 2012

    ” zillions of tickets to everywhere in the UK.”

    I’ve yet to y hear of one selling through tickets to any station in Norn Iron.

  36. Greg Tingey says:

    timbeau – once you are past Exeter, the speed of the train sevice turms into a pumpkin …..
    Actually re-opening all of the LSWR route might actually be a faster servie, if done with a few short cut-oofs, it’s thaty bad!

  37. Alan Griffiths says:

    Greg Tingey06:03AM, 10th September 2012

    ” past Exeter, the speed of the train service turns into a pumpkin”

    I make you right. An hour between Plymouth and Exeter must surely have a high claim for linespeed improvements.

  38. Whiff says:

    Well, this is completely off-topic unless the new Minister for Transport holidays in the Westcountry and wants to get there more quickly but the line gets even more slow once you get into Cornwall. I’ve only travelled the whole line a couple of times and there’s no obvious reason why it’s so slow so I’m not sure how easy it will be to make it considerably faster. After all most of the line was originally built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel who knew more than a little bit about railway engineering and design.

  39. Greg Tingey says:

    1961(ish) service … 95 mins, steam haulage St Davids’ Plymouth via Okehampton ( 58 miles)
    At the same time, the Gas Works Railway was taking 83 minutes.
    Current tt … best time is 67 min via the fractionally shorter 52-mile coastal route. ( 46.5 mph ) when not blocked by cliff falls &/or high seas.
    NOT really a significant improvement, is it, given the power available to an HST, compared to a Bullied pacific, and the hillier route over the top & round the back.

    Since we are actually talking about Transport ministers & guvmint “policy” …..
    I recall wondering, back in the day, why they were closing the lines to the W. coiuntry … “because we can’t keep these lines open, JUST for the holiday traffic”
    And why then was building an M-way &/or equivalent (the A38) …”because the existing roads can’t cope with the holiday traffic” (!)

    Of course it was all part of the sucessful plan by the amazing corrupt crook Marples, and his paid hatchet-man, Beeching, wasn’t it?
    Now, we have the same saga being played out again, except this time its HS2 that is unaffordable & unnecessary, and Theifrow runway 3 that is absolutely essential.

  40. timbeau says:

    The power advantage of an HST over a “King” or a Bulleid Pacific may get you up Dainton Bank a bit faster, but the limiting factor on that route is the curvature. A cut from 83 minutes to 67 is a 24% acceleration – not bad in the circumstances.

  41. Whiff says:

    Indeed part of the A38 in Devon was built over the old route of the Teign Valley line. The real reason the line between Exeter and Plymouth is relatively slow is because it serves the main population centres whereas the more direct A38 doesn’t, so that it avoids some of the worst hills. This issue of whether to build routes which are as fast as possible or serve as many people is one which, to try and get back on-topic, our new Minister of Transport will be facing when he grapples with HS2 and other potential new projects.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Pedant point: He’s Secretary of State for Transport, or Transport Secretary; not Minister.

  43. Fandroid says:

    @whiff Brunel’s South Devon Railway (west of Exeter) was designed as an atmospheric railway, without heavy locos, so it was assumed that trains could easily zoom up and down hills and round tight curves. Reality took over soon enough, but the railway has been lumbered with the chosen route ever since. The Cornwall Railway was similar. It got parliamentary approval soon after the South Devon, so the failures of the atmospheric system were not apparent when the route was fixed, although the line didn’t actually open (with locos) until about ten years later.

    Hence speeds are still restricted by tight curves and steep gradients.

Leave a Comment

In order to make LR a pleasant place for discussion, please try to keep comments polite and, importantly, on topic! Comments that we feel do not meet these criteria, or that contain language that could cause some people trouble at work, may be moderated or deleted.

acceptable tags

* (This won't be shown, but you can link it to an avatar if you like)

Recent Articles

Friday Reading List – 17 March


As anyone looking to properly understand London’s transport needs and network knows, context, background and best-practice are important. As readers might imagine, behind the scenes here at LR Towers we thus spend a lot of time sharing links and reading

Read more ›

LR Magazine Issue Five: Overgrounded


With print copies now being prepped for dispatch to subscribers at LR Towers, London Reconnections Magazine Issue 5: Overgrounded is now available to purchase in our online store. Transport is politics, politics is transport You don’t get transport without politics.

Read more ›