The British Government could be transferring transport powers to English Local Authorities through the Cities and Local Goverment Bill, which is currently being processed through Parliament.
The move will mirror the agreement between Greater Manchester central Government, which outlines the power for the region to have a directly elected Mayor in 2017. The new responsibilities that the new Bill brings include a devolved transport budget with a multi-year settlement, responsibility for franchised bus services, smart ticketing and potentially devolved rail stations across Greater Manchester.
There are still some things to be ironed out, however, as this moves through Parliament – including how to increase income of the travel companies in order to be able to reinvest. A good example of this at the moment is TfL, who make extra cash from congestion charging and business rate supplements, which allows them to reinvest into projects like Crossrail.
The plan for Greater Manchester forms part of the Northern Powerhouse Programme, which aims to close the North-South economic divide. As for the rest of the country, only Cornwall has so far sucessfully applied for a devolution deal, to give greater power over local bus service.
So why would the Government want to offer out powers like this? The Guardian explains; “The government says the UK has a productivity problem – official figures place it at 17% below the average for G7 nations. Devolving transport powers is meant to address this: improved local transport should lead to a more mobile workforce, which should reduce the productivity gap between London and other regions“.
There are concerns around how carbon reduction targets will be affected with devolved trasnport powers, as well as fears that rural areas may suffer as a result of the Government focussing on cities rather than areas that need improved transportation links.
The Bill is set to undergo another reading in the House of Commons next month, but what do you think? Would you like to see your Local Authority have more power over local transport?
Author Lex Barber