TfL-style system for Essex a 'major prize of devolution'

A woman sitting on a London bus

Would a TfL-style system lead to more joined up travel services in Essex? - Credit: PA

Essex having its own transport authority like Transport for London would be a major prize of devolution, a leading councillor in Essex has said.

Graham Butland, Braintree District Council leader and cabinet member for devolution at Essex Council Council, said lower-tier authorities such as his would have to concede a degree of autonomy over restructuring of local government.

But he said to run a devolved transport authority similar to TfL would facilitate vastly improved public transport services.

He said: “We would want to move forward the opportunity to have our own transport authority to be able to plan our own transport infrastructure.

“I don’t just mean roads. I mean all transport infrastructure. That would certainly I think be something that would be a prize.”

His comments follow those of Kevin Bentley, the leader of Essex County Council and chairman of Transport East, who has previously said that bodies like Transport East becoming transport authorities more like TfL, in which they control the routes and the fares, would help support sustainable transport.

In this scenario, control over ticket prices, routes and timetables would be given to newly-created local transport authorities with the aim of better-connecting regional communities.

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The devolution framework published by the Government last month sets out a flexible, three-level approach to devolution recognising that a one-size fits all model would not be suitable.

Cllr Butland added that delivering more affordable home-building would be another benefit.

He added: “Certainly also working with Homes England about how one gets more affordable housing and also a direct link with the rail network and as to how that might be improved are I think great prizes.”

The issue will be what price are we prepared to pay in terms of a devolution to have that.

The Government’s preferred model of devolution would see a single institution or county council with a directly elected mayor, but they have been clear this will not suit all areas at present.

Cllr Butland added: “I think it is quite complex and I think it unlikely that Essex would be within the first tranche. It also of course does not mean that we have to form unitary authorities and that overnight the likes of Braintree District Council and other councils would lose their independence and autonomy.”