Changes to transport planning and funding in Wales

27 January 2014

Article by Andrew Minnis, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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On 17 January 2014 the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport issued a statement outlining changes to Welsh transport planning and arrangements.  The Minister will make a plenary statement on transport policy on 28 January 2014.

This post provides background information on transport planning and the development of current Regional Transport Consortium structure in Wales.

Transport Planning in Wales

There are three key elements to the current transport planning framework:

Wales Transport Strategy: The Transport (Wales) Act 2006 requires the Welsh Government to prepare a Wales Transport Strategy and keep it under review. The current Wales Transport Strategy (WTS) was published in 2008.  It informs both National and Regional Transport Plans.

National Transport Plan (NTP)The NTP, published in March 2010 and reviewed in 2011, expires in March 2015. It sets out Welsh Government interventions to deliver the aspects of transport policy for which it is responsible.

Regional Transport Plans:  the Transport Act 2000 requires Welsh local authorities to develop Local Transport Plans which implement the WTS.   The Welsh Government made the Regional Transport Planning (Wales) Order 2006permitting Welsh local authorities to plan on a regional basis.

The developing role of Regional Transport Consortia in Wales

Local authorities developed pre-existing regional transport groups into four Regional Transport Consortia (SWWITCH; Sewta; TraCC and Taith) to develop and implement Regional Transport Plans (RTPs).  Like the NTP, the current RTPs expire in 2015. Delivery of RTPs has been primarily funded by a Welsh Government Regional Transport Consortia Grant (RTCG), which includes funding for administration of the Consortia.

The Welsh Government has developed the role of Consortia in recent years.  For example, post 2011-12 road safety funding, previously awarded directly to local authorities, became part of the RTCG and the Sustainable Travel Centres programme has also been mainstreamed into the RTCG.

On 17 January 2013 the previous Transport Minister, the Minister for Local Government and Communities, announced that a new Regional Transport Services Grant (RTSG) would replace two previous bus funding streams from April 2013.  The RTSG would be administered by the Consortia which were also required to develop Regional Bus Strategies.

A February 2013 Welsh Government Cabinet paper outlining the preparation process for the next NTP and RTPs described the move to National and Regional plans as a “step-change in transport planning in Wales, shifting the emphasis from separate local and modal plans to a more integrated approach”.

The Programme for Government commits the Welsh Government to consider the establishment of Joint Transport Authorities (JTAs), or executive bodies to deliver local authority transport functions on a regional basis, using powers under the Transport (Wales) Act 2006.

However, the previous Transport Minister told the Enterprise and Business Committee that he was pursuing a collaborative approach under the Simpson Compact, before considering JTAs.  In his January 2013Committee paper he stated:

I have been working with the Welsh local government to progress the collaboration agenda in transport. Good progress is being made in taking forward the commitment in the Compact and in strengthening the regional planning, prioritisation and delivery of transport investments.

Current proposals for transport planning

The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport’s statement identifies a need to review transport planning based on concerns raised in discussions with stakeholders as well the recommendations of a number of review / advisory bodies.  Key developments include:

  • A new National Transport Plan by March 2015 which includes regional priorities and a framework integrating local, regional and national planning;
  • Input from City Region Boards highlighting priorities in their areas and advising as the new plan takes shape (it is unclear from the statement how priorities for areas without a City Region Board will be identified);
  • Guidance for local authorities on meeting statutory transport duties;
  • Replacement of current Consortia funding streams by three grants allocated directly to local authorities who may work collaboratively;
  • Further review of transport planning and delivery.

The Minister elaborated on the changes in correspondence with Consortia Chairs on 17 January.  She stated “there will be no requirement on Regional Transport Consortia to oversee projects being funded or to co-ordinate activities arising from funding provided” and that funding for “Consortia administrative services” will cease.   The Minister notes the impact of changes on the role of Consortia but states that they “are being introduced to drive better value for money and bring greater benefits from our future transport investments in Wales”.