I wrote my first piece for the most excellent Chamberlain Files this week, reflecting on Mary Creagh’s speech at the Labour Party Conference and what it might mean for transport in the West Midlands.
You can read it here: http://www.thechamberlainfiles.com/all-aboard-the-devolution-train-and-bus/
The message is positive – although that should be couched in the context that I am an eternal optimist! As always it boils down to powers and money – i always distil it down to these two but ultimately in transport they are everything! We could do amazing things in the West Midlands, deploying transport as the public service utility that could effect major wider changes across areas including employment, skills, public health, safety, the environment, social inclusion and equality.
You can see it in two separate areas:
(1) the soft stuff – this is actually the really important bit, the means of providing much great benefits to many more people through improving access to opportunity so cheaper/subsidised fares so more people can use transport to access other services; or better information to improve the user experience, and so on…
(2) the concrete stuff – infrastructure, basically, the capital expenditure (as opposed to the soft stuff which would more likely be revenue), so things like the Greater Birmingham CrossCity network scheme I have discussed in other blogposts, or else the expansion of the West Midlands rapid transit network of Metro and Sprint. This provides the physical infrastructure creating those connections.
Both of these could be greatly advanced by empowering and enabling the West Midlands to be able to do more. We know what we need to do and there is lots that could be done but we are stymied by the inability to make it happen (because of insufficient powers or funding). There must be a major decentralisation exercise in the near future, the sooner the better!