In a recent meeting with the new Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, Wolmar reveals some rather odd (and worrying) thoughts from the head of the Department for Transport. What initially caught my eye was Hammond's inability to understand why cars give way to trains at level crossings and not the other way round.
Yes, this is true. The Transport Secretary - already nicknamed 'Petrol-head Hammond' by Railway Eye - seemed to think that the logic behind cars having to wait at level crossings a little strange. Wolmar dug deeper and deduced that the Transport Secretary was unaware that the railway network was older than the road network so has priority because it was there first. Never mind the effect this would have on train timetables.
"Give him a break, he's only been in the job a month" is what some might be saying. True, but there are some fundamentals a transport secretary is surely expected to know. I suspect GCSE History would cover the formation and evolution of the railways in relation to the road network as we now know it.
In another very recent meeting with the Transport Secretary, we understand Stagecoach's chief executive Brian Souter has been explaining just how damaging the Coalition Government's consideration to scrap the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG), or fuel duty rebate, would be. The previous administration was considering removing the fuel duty rebate set at a fee-per-mile and replacing it with a per passenger premium (making the quieter services even less profitable), though rumour has it Hammond and his DfT are considering just scrapping it altogether.
The result? Bus fares would, by and large, increase by between 20-30%. A number of months ago, one LEYTR operator told us their single fares would increase by 20p and returns by 30p. And this is independent to the annual increase they make.
It would appear the government like trumpeting transport's green credentials, but aren't always willing to commit financially.
The general consensus amongst transport watchers is that rail will be hit harder than buses, purely due to the leg-up the rail industry was given by the former transport secretary, Lord Adonis - a self-confessed railwayman. The higher you climb, the further you have to fall. The bus industry's saviour could come in the strange form of Liberal Democrat Norman Baker - thought to favour re-regulation through Quality Partnerships. While private bus companies in the main shy away from such agreements, it's the lesser of two evils when the threat of BSOG's removal is considered.