03Policy Priority 3: Make the city region easier to get around without owning a car

  • Franchise bus services. Ensure the bus network is run for the benefit of the wider Tees Valley economy in conjunction with the new National Bus Strategy.
  • Create ‘Transport for Tees Valley’. Tees Valley should aim for London-style control over local transport within the city region.
  • Invest in and grow locally innovative transport policies. Tees Flex and Wheels to Work should be expanded using the revenue from bus franchising and Transport for Tees Valley.

If Tees Valley experiences sustained economic expansion, then intra-region transport will become a greater local economic issue, as demand for local road space and thereby congestion increases. The mayor should anticipate and prepare for this and get the city region ready for growth.

The mayor should use the powers of the Bus Services Act 2017 to improve the buses in Tees Valley by introducing a franchising system. As the Tees Valley Transport Strategy makes clear, the bus network is a crucial social and economic link for people in Tees Valley, where 31 per cent of households have no car, bus use is falling and satisfaction with the services is in decline.9 The new National Bus Strategy makes clear that franchising will allow local government to access new funding specifically for bus services.

Franchising bus services will allow the mayor to address the major causes of declining ridership and quality, and set the fares, frequencies and routes of services and improve reliability and journey times. Through franchising, all funding for bus transport can be combined into one transport pot – from passenger fares, bus service operators grant, non-emergency patient transport and school bus trips – to procure an integrated, clean, green efficient service.

Tees Valley should then build a London-style Transport for Tees Valley. The greater control bus franchising gives over routes and fares, will allow the mayor to begin to build a seamless urban transport network. But Tees Valley needs a transport body to manage this – a new Transport for Tees Valley – tasked with improving transport in the city region and accountable to the mayor should be created with London-style powers. Bringing together all travel under one brand will make life easier for passengers. The fares revenue will also give the mayor the power to spend on initiatives and policies.

The mayor should invest more in ongoing local transport initiatives. Better buses will still leave many people across Tees Valley who are without access to a car out of reach of local job opportunities. For an area with high levels of youth unemployment in particular, even before Covid-19, this is a serious problem.

The mayor should support and extend the existing Wheels to Work scheme, that provides rented mopeds, e-bikes and bicycles for people looking for work or trying to get to work where public transport is not viable. Bus franchising will enable schemes such as the on-demand bus service Tees Flex to be extended and better integrated with other services.