Notts and Derby combined authorities release devolution prospectus

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Document appears to present increasing competition in the area as an obstacle to a good transport network

Two combined authorities, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (N2) and Derby and Derbyshire (D2) have put forward proposals for devolution.

D2N2 claims that if its proposals are successful, it could deliver 55,000 new jobs by 2023, 77,000 affordable homes by 2020, £1bn of funding from the Regional Investment Bank for local businesses, better connected towns and cities with improved experience and quality of essential travel and a further education which is more focussed on business needs.

The key transport proposals for the D2N2 are:

  1. A 10 year commitment to the devolving of Central Government funding for transport already not devolved – consistent with other Deal areas;
  2. London-style powers and devolved funding to introduce bus franchising on a staged basis and to better manage and rebalance the network;
  3. Powers to better manage and more efficiently operate the local road network and directly influence the management and programming of enhancements to the motorway and trunk road network, make and amend traffic and parking orders and change local rights of way. Seek a conversation regarding the potential for de-trunking specific strategic roads within the D2N2 area; and
  4. The ability to directly determine strategic infrastructure priorities to drive economic growth.

The argument was also made that the East Midlands has 9% of the UK’s population, but only 6% of the country’s transport spend, while London has 16% of the population and 32% of the spend.

The authorities said: “By securing long term funding commitments and devolving powers and funding decisions, the area will be able to redress the underinvestment in transport and exploit the full potential of linking local transport decisions to sustainable economic growth.

“Better management of our bus system will allow us to ensure adequacy of service in rural areas, whilst removing the negative impacts of destructive competition that undermines investments in quality improvements in urban areas, such as the expansion of the Nottingham Express Transit system.”

Concerning the rationale for ‘London-style’ powers, D2N2 commented: “There has been a significant shift in the deregulated bus market over the past three years, with an increase in the number of competing operators. This has led to significant problems of market failure and inefficiency which work against the public’s interest and wider local council policies in terms of raising the quality of provision.

“In urban areas, competition is stifling coordination and more efficient movement of passengers. In rural areas a lack of service provides challenges in connecting people with employment. A better regulated and rebalanced bus network will establish a stable high-quality public transport network and allow a simpler, fairer integrated smart-ticketing approach across the D2N2 area.”

D2N2 said the staged bus franchising it wishes to see includes:

  • A streamlined process to introduce bus franchising within current legislation, in line with process recommend by the Passenger Transport Executive Group (Pteg);
  • Funding to effect this change – business case, legal procurement, set-up costs for contract formulation and adherence;
  • Devolution of traffic commissioner registration powers;
  • Devolution of commercial BSOG incentive payments schemes for smartcard, real-time and green bus investment;
  • Devolution of commercial BSOG beyond current Better Bus Areas period (2018); and
  • Devolution of associated concessionary fares budgets.

D2N2 also said it would make a number of commitments. These include regional real-time information at all bus stops and interchanges, Oystercard-style smartcard and integrated ticketing, high quality bus stations/interchanges and waiting infrastructure, ultra-low carbon bus fleets (electric, hybrid, gas etc) and associated charging infrastructure, network of Park & Ride, fully enforced network of bus lanes and priority measures and a network of traffic signal priorities for late running tracked buses.

A CPT spokesman told CBW: “We await the details of Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire’s plans for devolution, together with those proposed by other areas. CPT and the industry will look forward to working with any stakeholders – local authorities in particular – who can help deliver better bus services whilst allowing operators to continue to invest.

“The industry firmly believes that the way forward lies in successful partnership working between operators and local authorities. This approach fosters flexible, locally-managed commercial bus networks, encourages innovation and ensures that services meet the changing and diverse needs of customers and local communities.

“As a result, partnership working has seen passenger numbers rise, complaints fall, and has kept fares affordable.”