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Hammond to face transport committee

Transport secretary Philip Hammond will face a tough grilling from MPs today when he appears before the House of Commons transport committee.

He is giving evidence just a day after train companies announced inflation-busting new year fare rises.

MPs will be keen to ask Hammond about his plans not only to improve conventional rail services but also about the proposed multibillion pound high-speed rail project.

A number of Tories with constituencies through which the high-speed trains will pass have expressed opposition to the scheme that could start as early as 2015.

More immediately, Hammond is set to announce the next generation of inter-city express trains and details of the Thameslink rail project.

Hammond will be faced with the tricky task of convincing MPs that transport infrastructure can be maintained and improved even though his department has had to face its share of Government cutbacks.

The future of bus services, the state of the roads, funding for road safety and the problems of road and rail congestion are among matters that MPs will want to discuss with the minister.

With the Government having ruled out any new south-east England runways in the near future, MPs will also want to hear how Hammond proposes to deal with airport capacity.

Announcing last month that Hammond would be giving evidence, the House of Commons transport committee’s chairman Louise Ellman said: “The chancellor’s announcements on the spending review made some positive commitments to a limited number of projects.

“However, I remain concerned that his statement failed to disclose where the cuts will fall except to confirm that there are bound to be increases in bus and train fares.

“The committee will be seeking fuller disclosure so that the public can understand how they will be affected by the 21% cut in the transport budget.”

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