Jason Pavey

UK & Europe

A chartered civil engineer with over 20 years experience in the transport sector, Jason leads Atkins' UK local transport market serving a wide range of clients including Transport for London (TfL), local authorities and Department of Transport (DfT).

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It has moved beyond rhetoric to the point of no return. Pace has been swift with six deals already agreed and ratified, and a further ten submitted and pending. So sixteen regions have put aside any political or geospatial differences to collaborate and work together. Seizing the moment to drive decision making and empowerment to a new benchmark.

As for other regions it’s a very mixed picture. In places devolution is acting as a catalyst for potential local government reorganisation and exposing deep lying differences that appear on the surface to be irreparable. Collaboration and seeking to work together across regions in whatever form is now critical to ensure that the benefits and outcomes of devolution are realised.

Newly formed combined authorities are in some ways like start-up companies. Whilst they have a strong history of delivering locally, many authorities now find themselves with the challenge of joining up across combined authority, geographic regions and beyond. This becomes an adaptive change challenge.  It’s not about drawing new organisation charts and setting up processes or working groups. Collaborative behaviours become increasingly important to equip people to work across historic silos; they galvanise and motivate the delivery of transport investment programmes beyond their traditional ‘patch’.  Whilst a challenge, it presents an incredible opportunity to drive real change, establish bestathlete’ and shared services on scales not seen in a generation. To respond to the devolution challenge of delivering growth and closing productivity, and at the same time, address the fiscal challenges authorities face in revenue budget reductions. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Devolved authorities also need to collaborate with other transport authorities, agencies and operators such as Network Rail, Highways England, HS2 and private developers.  Joined up regional transport strategies are becoming ever so important in drawing together investment at local, regional, sub-regional and national levels. Momentum is building in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine in this regard but more must be done to better align local to regional priorities. 

Joining up programmes is particularly important to ensure that we keep our cities and towns moving whilst we build and deliver new infrastructure. Historic approaches to managing disruption on some of our local transport networks, particularly roads, has to change. We need to embrace new ways of working, engage technology and look at how to prioritise investment to drive modal shift and smooth morning and evening peaks. Keeping our cities moving and open for business whilst we build and install the infrastructure the country so desperately needs.

For many regions with devolution deals in place or those to be announced in the autumn statement, the focus must rapidly move from start-up to delivery. Regional transport plans and alignment of programmes is certainly essential and part of the solution. But don’t underestimate the importance of collaborative behaviours in making things work in practice. 

UK & Europe,

The ‘devolution revolution’ is finally upon us and we must collectively grasp the opportunity it presents.

‘Transport devolution: the ticket to greater productivity’ was the topic of two fringe debates at the recent Labour and Conservative Party Conferences sponsored by Atkins, TfL, TfGM and The Guardian. From the panel discussions it was evident that there is a general cross party support for the devolution of powers to local government, albeit some differences on points of detail.

Decentralisation is particularly relevant to local transport services. Transport for London previously led the way by evolving from disparate transport authorities into one entity, linking transport as a whole across the capital and has achieved this with much success. Now the government is keen to revitalise other city regions through new initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine for Growth – driving other regional groupings of local authorities to embark on a similar restructure.

The significant social, economic and infrastructural benefits of devolution have been noted. As Whitehall releases powers to cities, Regional Transport Authorities engaging with local communities and end users are arguably best placed to identify what infrastructure improvements will best serve local needs. Infrastructure investment in local transport is expected to become regionally strategic and more balanced across travel modes. Regions will have the opportunity to achieve greater integration and provide simpler smart ticketing and fare systems; allowing greater accessibility to travel.

Viewing infrastructure as an enabler to improve productivity, drive economic growth and unlock much needed social development, was also widely accepted at the fringe events. Providing better connectivity will broaden the ability for people to access employment, education and training and healthcare. Better outcomes for residents are possible by getting skills to jobs, trainees to education and goods to markets. And, of course it is an opportunity to unlock regional growth and address the historic north/south divide.

Technology also has an important part to play in the revolution. Customers and users of both public transport and roads are increasingly dependent on technology to provide travel solutions. Whether it’s to purchase tickets or understand how to get efficiently from A to B across different transport modes. Smart cities are already becoming a reality and looking further ahead towards autonomous vehicles, the internet of things and the next generation of broadband, it becomes necessary to join up services more efficiently than ever before.

Devolving budget responsibilities for health, education and transport to local government offers many other opportunities particularly in relation to Total Transport. Significant efficiency improvements can be achieved by joining up different transport services, allocating resources and providing services that better meet the needs of passengers.

This all sounds brilliant. But here is the fundamental challenge – devolution is set to be ‘budget neutral’. We need to constantly make the case for investment in infrastructure, we need to be relentless in this regard. Local Transport funding needs to be ring fenced with secured multi-year settlements and as devolution is set to reshape the political landscape, the devil will be in the detail.

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