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ICE urges government to avoid standardised devolution

Engineers have called for a tailored approach to devolution of transport powers.

Chancellor George Osborne last week signalled his willingness to give more rights to cities that follow London and Manchester in electing a mayor.

A City Devolution Bill will be in the Queen’s Speech later this month and North East MP James Wharton has been named minister for the Northern Powerhouse to take the legislation through Parliament.

Institution of Civil Engineers director general Nick Baveystock hailed the move but warned against a standardised process.

Baveystock said: “The devolution of transport powers is an opportunity to be seized and this renewed commitment from government is encouraging.

“Scotland and London have shown that locating transport powers closer to those it affects can lead to greater investment and better decision making – and this Bill should pave the way for others to also benefit from greater autonomy.

“There is however no one-size-fits-all devolution model. Government must therefore resist the desire for standardisation and instead be guided by the needs, ambition and capacity of each area.”

Re-appointed chancellor Osborne has previously championed the idea of a Northern Powerhouse that could rival London’s economic might.

He has pledged that Greater Manchester will be run by an elected mayor from 2017 – with transport set to be one of the largest budgets.

But that is just the start of Osborne’s vision.

He said last week: “We will deliver the devolution to Scotland and Wales we promised. But today I can tell you we will go much further and deliver radical devolution to the great cities of England.

“I say to these cities: it is time for you to take control of your own affairs.”

Osborne said that with the new powers must come city-wide elected mayors.

“London has a mayor,” he said. “Greater Manchester has agreed to have a mayor as part of our Northern Powerhouse – and this new law will make that happen.

“My door now is open to any other major city who‎ wants to take this bold step into the future.”

Costs and benefits have already been submitted to the government for a series of proposed rail schemes worth up to £65bn across the North of England.

Infrastructure operator Network Rail and Transport for the North - the body representing major cities in the region - drew up the options in a report published in March.

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