People rely on transport to get around in their day-to-day lives. On-time trains and buses, roads free of traffic and routes for cycling and walking all keep a city moving. As cities grow they often become denser, more congested and more complex. Good transport, in turn, brings everyone ‘closer’ together, which saves time, money and helps businesses trade — all helping the economy grow. So investing in roads, trains, trams, buses cycling and walking infrastructure supports people, communities and the economy.
This report identifies five key challenges that need to be overcome if the transport systems in UK cities are to improve and provide the quality of service that workers, businesses and residents need:
- Inability to ensure bus services meet people’s economic, social and environmental needs
- Short timescale and uncertainty of central government funding
- Limited freedom to raise money locally to fund local transport improvements
- Fragmented funding and management of different modes of transport
- Lack of integration of transport, economic development and housing strategies
To make transport work for people and the economy, it needs to be better planned, managed and funded. London has overcome the majority of these challenges because it has more control over its transport.
Transport for London (TfL) – the body that oversees transport across Greater London – has had huge success in improving the capital’s transport system. Now, more cities need London-style control if they are to have transport systems that better support their economies.
Cities need to have more say over their transport to help people get around. Through a ‘tailored devolution’ approach all cities should be given TfL-style powers to ensure road, rail and bus services better connect their people to work and businesses to customers.
All cities should be able to:
Regulate their buses. Private companies do not always meet the social and environmental needs of people, like providing regular service from some estates to where jobs are or reducing pollution with green buses. So, cities and citizens need to have a stronger say over local buses.
Have longer-term certainty over funding. Yearly funding decisions and politics both add a lot of uncertainty to transport projects and hold them back. Cities need minimum five-year funding settlements from government.
Charge users for the transport projects that benefit them. Right now, cities rely too much on money from Whitehall, meaning others pay for local gain. Instead, new ways of charging for transport projects within each city will put the costs on those people who benefit the most.
Larger cities, with more complex transport systems, have additional coordination and funding problems that need to be overcome. All of the UK’s larger cities should have an Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) which can join up all the different types of transport —road, rail, tram and bus — into one system that covers the wider city region.
Those cities which are already have a combined authority — currently Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield — should be given TfL-style powers. This would enable them to not only better coordinate their transport system but join up it up to the economic, skills, jobs and housing strategies for their area and have more say over making sure transport meets the needs of people and business. This is about making transport work for people, the economy, and growth.
While calling for reform to funding and transport powers, cities can also learn from each other to develop strategies that improve transport within the current system. They can ensure standards for bus companies that operate in their city, vote for local taxes or fees for specific transport projects and they can join up transport with other services in housing, jobs and health to make their city an all-round better place to live. But too little of this is being done because the political and financial system is so challenging. This report seeks to highlight where cities have worked around the challenges to make transport work better for their economy.