Devolving transport governance: A journey worth taking?

Dialogue around devolving transport governance continues to grow. Indeed, a wide range of stakeholders – from campaign groups and think tanks to local government and universities – are now involved in a national conversation about how best to move things forward.

Other cities can learn from London’s smart use of its transport infrastructure, like the Overground network
Other cities can learn from London’s smart use of its transport infrastructure, like the Overground network
  • Updated: 26 August, 2015
  • Author: Ben Goodwin, ICE Policy Manager

With the Cities and Devolution Bill and the Spending Review in full swing, now is a good time to reflect on the story so far.

All roads lead to devolution

Previous work undertaken by ICE, and others like the Campaign for Better Transport, has found that current arrangements for the delivery of local transport are not up to scratch.

In part, these pieces of work have concluded that:

  • A joined-up approach to transport planning is often lacking at the local level, with little appreciation of travel as a process that is typically multi-modal and one that often takes place across local authority boundaries
  • Many relatively short journeys take an unnecessary amount of time to complete and are increasingly more expensive, due to poor connectivity and the unavailability of combined ticketing
  • The levels of investment that are being made in local transport from central government are falling short of what is required, with the large funding shortfall for road maintenance a case in point
  • The nature of allocating funding, which is quite often done on a competitive basis, frequently detracts the work of local transport authorities away from managing the everyday needs of service users

Making the case for devolving the responsibility for planning, funding and managing local transport away from Westminster is one thing, but establishing where to relocate it to is another.

The prevailing consensus is that city regions represent the best scale at which transport governance could be optimised.

Mind the urban gap, as no one size fits all

There is no need to be an expert planner or engineer in order to appreciate the benefits of the way in which transport in London operates. It is clear, from the user perspective, that it is pretty good.

All four corners of London are connected through a multi-modal integrated system, that is increasingly more accessible thanks to well-designed station interchanges, while smart ticketing and an almost endless supply of real-time travel information mean that it is speedy and convenient to use.

Replicating elements of the London model would be a good starting point for other city regions, but there must be recognition that the way in which transport operates in the capital is unique.

As the conversation on how best to devolve transport grows it is important that it takes note of the inherent differences between city regions, incorporating the knowledge of technical and local experts alike.

Looking ahead: devolution as the final destination

As a final thought, it is worth noting that by 2030 nearly 90% of the UK’s population will live in cities. Preparing for the future by finding the most effective ways of devolving transport governance now, is just common sense, no?