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Call for new approaches in devolved transport decision making

New and more flexible approaches are needed in the way decision makers assess transport infrastructure plans in the light of devolution, a new report has suggested. 

The ‘Full Speed Ahead’ report, published by PwC and the Smith Institute following roundtables with transport industry specialists, from councils and LEPs, recommended developing a framework and principles for devolved decision making on transport. 

Roundtable participants welcomed bodies set up to oversee regional transport strategy, such as Transport for the North or Midlands Connect. 

However, there were concerns that government plans to devolve further transport powers to combined authorities, like Greater Manchester’s Combined Authority, will be on a deal-by-deal basis and will now include a requirement for a directly elected mayor.  

It was noted in the report that “it was asked if city-to-city transport planning and decision making might become sub-optimal if some, but not all, cities have transport powers under the auspices of a metro-mayor”. 

Participants said burden sharing, for example, was difficult to achieve if there was no institutional arrangement and protocols to underpin collaborative transport deals. 

They also commented that “places should not be discriminated against because of their governance arrangements. Poorer places in urgent need of jobs and growth are often the same places that suffer from lack of transport services and inadequate connectivity. Some of these disadvantaged places may be too small or unable to take on new transport powers and responsibilities”. 

Grant Klein, a transport sector partner at PwC, said that transport is inextricably linked to economic growth across the UK, with a much wider impact than just getting people from A to B. 

“It’s clear central government and the national transport bodies see transport devolution as part of the solution to improve intercity transport connectivity, and plan for capacity and upgrades,” he said. 

“It’s a change in mind-set that needs a different conversation and new collaboration between local, regional and national transport bodies, in their assessment, delivery and operations of new transport services.” 


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