Almost a year ago, we profiled the man in charge of the Government’s transport policy, the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. Now we have secured an interview with him. This will be the first in a new series of interviews on this blog – it is, we’re sure you’ll agree, a good way to start.
Patrick McLoughlin was appointed Secretary of State for Transport in September 2012 and again in May 2015. He has held a number of positions in government, including Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry and Government Whip.
The Secretary of State has overall responsibility for the policies of the Department for Transport, including:
- Transport strategy, including economic growth and climate change
- Spending review
- Transport security
- High speed rail (HS2)
What transport policy are you most proud of?
The infrastructure that builds the transport network for Britain’s future is obviously very important, and getting it right is a huge responsibility. Despite the tough economic decisions we’ve had to make as a Government following the huge debt we inherited from the Labour Party, I am proud of our record of investment. We’re investing a record £38 billion in our railways; strategic roads now have a five-year plan; while HS2 is getting near to construction.
But it can be easy to forget, when looking at concrete, that transport changes lives, so one policy I’m very proud of is our £25 million community minibus fund. There are voluntary organisations across the country offering vital bus services for things like dial-a-ride, hospital trips and days out. We provided them with funding so they could bid for brand-new minibuses, fitted out to their individual specification to meet their needs. We’re now delivering over 200 brand new minibuses to make a difference to local communities across the nation.
The Government recently appointed Lord Adonis as the head of its National Infrastructure Commission. What do you think this will mean for Britain's transport infrastructure?
Lord Adonis is a former Transport Secretary who has the experience to assess Britain’s needs and lead the Commission in providing long-term innovative thinking on infrastructure. What the National Infrastructure Commission can do is identify the right projects that will help transform Britain’s transport network and strengthen the economy. It will also hold the government to account if we don’t deliver – which is an important role, as we plan many years ahead when examining infrastructure projects, whether that’s HS3 in the North or Crossrail 2 in London.
George Osborne has introduced a permanent fund for pothole repairs. Will it be enough, or will motorists always have to put up with potholes?
Potholes are a menace to all road users. That is why this Government is taking action. We’re providing more than £6 billion in funding for local authorities to keep their roads in good condition over the next six years. This is an increase from the £4 billion we spent in the last parliament. By giving long-term certainty, councils can get organised and plan their maintenance service so that potholes never appear in the first place, rather than play catch-up with a patch-and-mend approach. The Chancellor also announced in the Budget a £50million pothole action fund this year to help councils repair just under one million potholes across England.
Obviously, some areas of the country were hit by severe weather this winter, and that had an effect on the roads. That’s why, in the Budget, the Chancellor announced that an extra £130 million is being made available to help repair local roads damaged by the wet winter. This is on top of the £50 million we pledged in December to ensure quick recovery of damaged local roads and other highway infrastructure.
What advice would you give to companies looking to make their car fleets greener and more efficient?
I think they should consider them very seriously, particularly now there is more and more choice. There already more than 70,000 electric and plug-in hybrid cars, and I want to see many thousands more green vehicles on our roads. We’re providing grants so that companies can get money off the purchase price and funding for charge-points across the country. There are also more tax breaks for greener cars. Combine that with the savings in fuel, and companies often find that ultra-low emission vehicles have strong advantages. The leased car market is leading the way, with nearly 1 in 20 new leases being for a plug-in car.
We’re a world-leader in this technology, and I’m determined we continue at the front. In total, we’re providing more than £600 million until 2020 to support potential buyers and continue backing the work of our car industry in developing green motoring. One day soon, I hope it will be strange for any company fleet not to use green, ultra-low emission vehicles.
Your constituency covers the Peak District National Park. What’s your favourite Peak District drive?
There are many wonderful drives and walks in the Peak District National Park. It is difficult to name just one, but if I was pressed I would say that the drive past Chatsworth Park following the road down to the farm shop and turning left shortly afterwards down into Bakewell, is simply spectacular. The views are a sight to behold, but the road is probably better described as a track so I wouldn’t encourage too many to drive it!