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Blair promotes transport in post election reshuffle

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PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair this week used his post election cabinet and ministerial reshuffle to raise the profile of transport within government.

Campaigners hailed the appointment of Stephen Byers as secretary of state for transport, local government and the regions and John Spellar as transport minister as a 'promotion for transport'.

Byers, seen by many as a high flyer in Westminster, has moved from the Department of Trade & Industry to the newly created minstry following the break up of the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions.

'Byers is a very senior and respected minister who comes with a high reputation, ' said London First's director of policy and transport Irving Yass.

'Transport has in the past been a stepping stone to something more important. This the first time a minister has moved from the DTI to transport. It's not a demotion for Byers but a promotion for the transport ministry' he added.

Industry sources told NCE this week that they regarded Byers and Spellar as a 'strong team' better suited to 'delivery on the ground'. Byers' predecessor John Prescott was seen as strong on strategy with former transport minister Lord McDonald as good at policy presentation.

Splitting transport from the environment portfolio was widely welcomed but concern was raised about how long the reorganisation will take.

'For quite a long time after the government came into office in 1997 there was very little policy or action while senior officials at sorted out the change around which created the Department of the Environment Transport and the regions, ' said Yass.

Former armed forces minister Spellar's appointment as transport minister was welcomed this week by environmental lobby group Transport 2000.

Spellar, who is MP for Warley West in the West Midlands, is believed to be 'pro rail' and it is hoped his appointment will lead to a shift from what was seen as Lord McDonald's pro road agenda.

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