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City regions 'best placed for infrastructure devolution'

Manchester metro

Transport for the North (TfN) is too big to act as a single devolved power for instructure decisions the North, political experts have argued.

Speaking at the London First Infrastructure Summit, London Finance Commission chair Tony Travers said city regions were “more promising than far larger and less easily governed areas” when making infrastructure decisions for cities in the north.

The northern body was compared to Transport for London (TfL) in the south which Travers said was a “very powerful agency”, had “very clear” leadership with powers unique to London, and was one of the most powerful organisations of its kind in the world.

But he questioned whether the north was too big to for an equivalent agency and said city regions would be better placed and sized to act with the same powers.

“I do think getting the geography of control, investment and the power of the agencies in other cities up to the strength of TfL is the objective, and that is good for them,” he said. “But Transport for the North is a bit big.

”TfN, by contrast [to TfL], is new, has many politicians/councils as its leadership, very few resources and no fare income. City regional transport authorities, such as Transport for Greater Manchester, especially where there are directly-elected mayors, are more like TfL and could more easily be evolved into TfL-like bodies. Especially if they were given TfL’s powers.

“I think the city-region is more promising than far larger and less easily governed areas.”

Transport minister Lord Callanan agreed saying TfN was different to TfL as it was made up of a different range of geographies.

“They’re vastly different areas,” he said. “London is one very big city, and the north is a mix of rural, city communities, conurbations and towns so it’s not exactly parallel.”

But he said the basic point was to put was the body on a statutory basis, and the government had given it powers to develop proposals to develop a northern transport solution.

However, he agreed with Travers, saying that within TfTN, there would still be some “difficult” decisions for the politicians as they still had their own individual priorities and cities to look after.

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