I took part in an interesting discussion yesterday with other West Midlands transport types, one part of this discussion focused in on integrated transport policy – what does it mean and do we have any? I was not hugely surprised to hear some relatively negative opinions expressed on this front. Which triggered off thoughts in my head around, well what would an integrated transport policy actually look like – would you know one if it came up and said hello to you on the street? After all, it is one of those conversation topics that I always get – oh that was a subject in Yes Prime Minister and nothing has changed since then!
OK, fine, very true perhaps. Well, is it true? I think it partially is although that may be down to a generational perspective and a way of doing things. Given the highly-centralised state we live in here in Great Britain AND given the fact that there is no central integrated transport policy and long term strategy – what do you expect??
I have debated in the past that my vision requires the Department for Transport (based in Westminster, or in Birmingham, or anywhere else for that matter!) would be a smaller, strategic body that led and promoted the Government’s long term strategy for transport and ensured a truly integrated transport policy in 2 respects:
(1) that all local/regional/national/international transport policies were integrated with each other – a system of integrated transport policies as it were
(2) that transport policy is integrated with other policy areas so the overlaps and impacts/benefits were managed and optimised from the outset – an integrated policy system between/across transport and other areas if you like
Then the decentralisation magic happens. Perhaps some elements should remain centralised such as:
– international movements – so aviation and shipping
– safety and security
– intercity rail (as opposed to regional, urban, commuter, intra-regional) as this needs a national perspective rather than competition between our city regions
It would then be responsible for developing the long term transport strategy and ensuring it is being implemented, coordinating across the regions to optimise delivery and ensure consistency.
The city-regions and wider areas would then be responsible for their local and regional transport. So rail and bus and metro, as well as the active modes of walking and cycling. They would be liberated to promote their particular areas of interest and need and be allowed to focus on their specific requirements. Importantly this would require funding devolution to enable that so locally-raised and retained taxation/revenue-raising schemes. We must surely come to the point soon where the hand of Whitehall stops having such control over schemes across the country?
To have an integrated transport policy then requires a new landscape that includes:
– a long term national transport strategy led by a slimmed-down DfT
– decentralisation of transport policy making and implementation
– devolution of funding powers and authority to proceed with schemes
And what then would this integrated transport policy look like? In Part 2 I shall go into further detail with the West Midlands example. But the approach would require the city-region or equivalent to develop: a short-term implementation plan, a medium-term mobility plan and a long-term strategy. This would incorporate details on delivery and funding, how schemes will be optimised to deliver the best results, how technology can be deployed to support better delivery, how the user experience is going to be improved, how wider results (i.e. health, jobs, skills etc) will be delivered, how it will be funded and from where (i.e. health benefits funded from the health pot and so on).
An integrated transport policy needs to have both systems covered:
– the system of multiple areas of transport/mobility (private transport, public transport, active travel etc) that makes up the array of mobility opportunities that every user should be able to access in order to achieve the journey they require; and,
– the wider policy system of which transport is one part and supports many others such as economic development, education, health and environment.