With the upcoming elections for the first West of England Authority ‘Metro Mayor‘ coming up in May, many of us have been unaware of his/her future responsibilities. Some light has been shed on the mayor’s transport responsibilities from an email exchange between Neil Butters, a local B&NES councillor, and Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson, and B&NES Council Officer, Peter Dawson, Group Manager – Transport Policy:
Neil asked the following question:
Please can you let me know how far the new Mayor’s responsibilities will go vis-a-vis transport?
Relating to for example -
- MetroWest and proposed extensions
- Park & Rides – including East of Bath
- Road development and maintenance.
What do you envisage happening to your position and that of your team? Will you all stay with B&NES? If so, how will the new Mayor be supported, and where?
Lib Dem, Bathavon South
Peter’s reply was as follows:
Thank you for your email I’m sorry it has taken longer than usual to get a reply to you.
You asked how far the new Mayor’s responsibilities will go vis-a-vis transport? Relating to for example -
• MetroWest and proposed extensions
• Park & Rides – including East of Bath
• Road development and maintenance.
The following transport powers are covered by the Order and will be the responsibility of the WECA:
1. Local Transport Plan:
• Sets the policy transport policy framework for the area
• Sets the infrastructure priorities/programme
• Sets transport vision, aims, objectives and monitoring
2. Key Route Network
3. Asset Management Plan
4. Bus Strategy
5. Concessionary Fares
6. Bus Services
7. Real Time Information
8. Community Transport
The Metro Mayor/Combined Authority will have transport powers as contained in Parts 4 (local passenger transport services) and 5 (financial provisions) of the Transport Act 1985(a); and Part 2 (local transport) of the 2000 Act. Some of these powers will be held jointly, some concurrently with the 3 UAs and some will, of course, be held directly by the WECA. All of this is set out in the Parliamentary Order.
In answer to your specific questions:.
• MetroWest and proposed extensions:
These projects are ‘legacy schemes’ and will continue to be promoted by all 4 WoE authorities and will not fall to the CMA to take forward. Of course in due course, particularly with the additional funds available to the WECA (but not North Somerset) further transport projects (including rail projects) will be brought forward.
• Park & Rides – including East of Bath:
The Metro Mayor or WECA may decide to promote P&Rs in the future, as they will be able to promote transport projects under the provision of the acts referred to above. In the immediate future B&NES will continue to promote an East of Bath P&R. The delivery programme for major schemes will be developed through the updating of the LTP and the prioritisation of the additional funding which are functions of the Mayor and Combined Authority.
• Road development and maintenance:
The three councils will continue to be the Highway Authorities for their area. The Mayor will have the responsibility for the allocation of highways capital grants and to set a Key Route Network (KRN). Once set, the KRN and associated Asset Management Plan will set out how and to what standards the KRN is managed. Once the bus bill has received royal accent, the WECA will have powers to franchise bus services in accordance with an agreed bus strategy (set out in the LTP)
2. What do you envisage happening to your position and that of your team? Will you all stay with B&NES? If so, how will the new Mayor be supported, and where?
There are no proposals to change the Transport Policy team roles in the constituent councils. There is a separate resource plan being developed for the WECA. The position on much of this work will develop over the coming months.
Peter Dawson, Group Manager – Transport Policy
We hope this helps clarify the situation a little? However, at the same time Chris Grayling, Minister for Transport is giving the new mayor these new powers, he is also pushing legislation through parliament to stop new municipally owned bus companies being set up. We are concerned that this new restriction will limit the new mayor’s ability to deliver a functional public transport strategy. Municipal bus companies often provide better, more cost effective services than private operators.
It is unclear to us whether the high costs of buses in Bath are because they are expensive to run, or that local private monopoly operators are using profits in Bath to subsidise other areas of the country where fares are lower? It is also unclear whether our new mayor will be given the same powers that Newcastle might be given if it appoints a mayor – there seem to be mixed. ambiguous messages coming from Government?