Norman Baker recorded speech to the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG) reception, 5 March 2013.
Thank you for asking me along today I’m sorry I cannot be there in person.
Managing relationships during times of change is essential and we have seen some considerable changes to the way policies are planned and delivered in recent years, including the emergence of local enterprise partnerships, The Localism Bill, City Deals and combined authorities.
So we’ll continue working in partnership with the PTEs / PTEG to move the agenda forward, and to continue supporting our key cities through transport investment.
We all have had to adapt to the fiscal and economic challenges that face the country, but as you know this government has put economic growth at the heart of what it does. It is cities which will drive most of that growth, and transport provides the crucial links that allow communities and businesses to prosper. So we need to maintain momentum and continue to drive improvements.
In recognition of that, last year’s Autumn statement provided over £1 billion for crucial schemes - many in our key city regions - which will deliver a huge shot in the arm to the regional and national economy. This funding will deliver a bold package of measures, including building new roads and schemes to tackle congestion bottlenecks, allow quicker and more efficient journeys and ultimately make substantial savings to the economy.
The bidding process recently closed for the £170 million Local Pinch Point Fund, which aims to remove bottlenecks on the local highway network. This investment will build on the success of the Highways Agency’s Pinch Point Fund for the strategic road network, which received an extra £100 million in the ‘Autumn statement’ and we aim to announce the successful schemes in the late spring.
We are also investing in our cities with a significant amount of the current major scheme budget going to projects within PTE areas.
Good progress is being made with the Midland Metro where we are providing £75.4 million towards the £128 million cost of the scheme which is aimed at improving connectivity and providing a better link to the wider national rail network at New Street Station.
We are also providing £396 million towards various Manchester Metrolink extensions;
And subject to successful completion of remaining processes will also provide finding for other schemes:
- £173 million for the Leeds NGT trolley bus
- £19 million for the bus rapid transit link between Sheffield and Rotherham
- up to £470 million for the Mersey Gateway scheme
In addition I recently announced a further £23 million of funding for the Tyne and Wear Metro, part of a total of £93 million for renewing and upgrading the Metro over the next 3 years.
All these commitments show how serious this government is about encouraging growth, about providing the infrastructure and connections that will enable cities and regions across the UK to thrive.
Inevitably, London is at the heart of the UK’s economy, but we acknowledge that core cities outside London are essential centres of economic growth and we are firmly committed to unlocking their full growth potential. That is why we have agreed the first wave of the city deal programme that includes devolved powers and new and innovative ways of doing things that will unlock growth and deliver jobs.
Transport was central to many of them, recognising its importance in supporting economic development and following the success of the first wave, the government has announced a second wave of deals, opening up this opportunity to another twenty cities across the country.
Some 28 areas are now part of the city deal programme, accounting for 71% of the English population and 68% of the total jobs. We welcomed last year’s ‘No Stone Unturned’ report from Lord Heseltine which included a range of proposals to give more freedom and spending power to local areas. We will of course be responding to that more fully in the coming months.
As you will probably know, on 26 February I launched the competition for local transport authorities to receive devolved Bus Service Operators Grant - known as BSOG - by becoming Better Bus Areas. We have already agreed the first new Better Bus Area with Sheffield as part of its city deal. This will bring just under £1.6 million per year new funding into the area.
Local authorities – and PTEG in particular – have long asked for BSOG to be devolved so that the local authorities can subsidise bus services in a way that more closely reflects local circumstances. I believe that the new Better Bus Areas will do just that.
At present BSOG is paid as a direct subsidy to bus operators. The grant helps to keep down bus fares and protects services, but it is a blunt tool. So I am throwing down the gauntlet to local transport authorities. Show us that you could deliver better value for money with the money we currently spend on BSOG for commercial services in your area and we will top it up with a further 20%. We are asking for applications by 21 June and I hope that many PTEs will apply.
One of the biggest commitments being made to stimulating economic growth and regeneration is HS2. We are not just building a railway –as a means to get between 2 points more quickly than before. We are connecting people and markets, and providing a platform for development and regeneration at station sites.
We recently set out our initial preferences for phase two, the Y route, extending the route north of Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. This will benefit the economies of the Midlands and the north in 2 ways. Firstly, it will widen opportunities for millions by providing direct links to London, the south east and Europe. Secondly, by linking Birmingham, the East Midlands, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds and beyond it will help merge these vital city economies into a formidable unit; providing real competition to London and the South East.
We want to see cities and regions across the UK taking full advantage of the transformation in connectivity and capacity that HS2 will bring and I am sure you do too because HS2 will create and support tens of thousands of jobs, many of those in the core city regions. So I hope to be able to rely on your continuing support for HS2 in the months to come - winning the public debate is crucial to our success.
I know you are thinking hard about proposals to integrate your local transport networks with HS2 stations. It is right that this process should be led by local government and local transport partners. I firmly believe that local areas know what the issues are in their patch and it is for you, working with your communities and local businesses, to work to address your priority transport issues. That is what localism is all about.
As part of the localism agenda the department continues to take forward plans to devolve decision making and funding for local major transport schemes to local transport bodies. The PTEs will obviously play a key role, and they are now making good progress, putting their membership and governance arrangements in place and developing their prioritisation plans which should be published in the summer.
It is essential for both DfT and LTBs that we have the necessary structures and processes in place by the time we hand over the reins in 2015. This is a real opportunity for local areas to make a difference and one I am sure you will take advantage of. But it doesn’t stop there.
In November we said we would like to see proportionate rail decentralisation introduced where it is sensible to do so – and the north of England and West Midlands appear to be areas where this can happen. We are happy to continue working with the PTEs who are developing proposals and look forward to receiving more detailed propositions in due course.
Collectively we have come a long way in 2012 and I am confident that we can build on this momentum and make 2013 even more successful. Having outlined many of the changes that we have initiated – changes we believe are for the better – we must not forget that there are services to the public that still need to be delivered day in day out. So I want to pay tribute to the work that you do to ensure that happens.
There will, no doubt, be challenges ahead, but there will also be many opportunities to be seized thanks to the initiative and innovation that so often comes from core cities. It’s vital that we see more of the drive that PTEs have so often provided in the past when developing and improving urban transport.
My apologies again for not being able to be with you today (5 March 2013), thank you allowing this virtual appearance and I wish you the very best for your event this evening.