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Contractors attack Kelly's tenure as transport secretary

Outgoing transport secretary Ruth Kelly was today criticised by the Civil Engineering Contractors' Association (CECA) for failing to listen to the construction industry during her period in the role.

Kelly this morning announced her resignation from the cabinet at the Labour Party conference, stating her desire to spend more time with her family.

CECA director Rosemary Beales said that during her 14 months as transport secretary, Kelly had failed to strike up a dialogue with the industry that delivers all Government transport plans and strategies.

"Given the importance to the economy of investment in and enhancement of the country's transport infrastructure it is essential that the Secretary of State engages with the industry in a meaningful way," said Beales.

"Ruth Kelly's approach did not deliver the dialogue we had hoped for. We would encourage the incoming Secretary of State to understand the benefits that such communication can bring to all stakeholders, including government, and look forward to a positive and constructive relationship."

After media speculation and confirmation of the resignation by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Kelly explained her decisions for leaving in a wide-ranging speech at the conference in Manchester.

During the speech she highlighted a number of projects and developments she saw as key to the future of UK transport, most notably Crossrail, which she said she was proud to have been part pf the Government that secured the future of the mega-project.

She also attacked the Conservative Party as the party that slashes public transport spending when in Government.

"To slash investment when the country entered a time of economic difficulty would be reckless, short-sighted and irresponsible," said Kelly.

"So that is why the Government will stay true to its commitments - on Crossrail, on Birmingham New Street, on Reading and across the country.

"And we must continue to be ambitious for the future and to put in place the right long-term framework to deliver affordable investment in transport. So Labour will develop options for a rolling programme of electrification of our railways - potentially the largest programme of electrification in our history.

"I have asked Network Rail to consider the case for new lines if passenger numbers continue to grow in the future. And if we need new lines, of course we should be asking whether they should be high speed."

Kelly's statement of support for rail electrification was welcomed by the Campaign for Better Transport, but its executive director Stephen Joseph criticised Kelly's backing of a third runway at Heathrow.

"This speech reveals the inconsistency at the heart of Government transport policy," said Joseph.

"Kelly supported Heathrow expansion [even though] the third runway would undermine any carbon cuts made elsewhere. The next transport secretary should stand up to the business lobby and drop this disastrous project."

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