The road ahead – the rise of the Sub-national Transport Body

by | Oct 25, 2018 | News

Well-planned infrastructure has the power to transform the economy and generate new opportunities for all. Improved connectivity enables job creation, increases productivity, supports much-needed home building and helps individuals realise their potential. However, in order to achieve the desired outcomes, infrastructure investment must be made at strategic level. Sub-national Transport Bodies (STBs) are uniquely positioned to work in partnership with Government to realise our shared ambition of enabling businesses and communities to prosper. We can do this by developing a long-term transport infrastructure plan for the UK.

Transport for the North, Midlands Connect, Transport for the South East and England’s Economic Heartland are each developing long-term strategies that are underpinned by a dedication to improving quality of life across England. As economic regions, we share a collaborative, evidence-based approach to transport investment, bringing together an unprecedented coalition led by local authorities and business leaders. We complement the work of local and national transport authorities, providing the leadership that enables strategic infrastructure requirements to be developed and delivered faster. Our partnerships achieve much more by working together than would ever be possible in isolation. STBs themselves are also working together, across regional borders, to maximise the benefits of each other’s plans and the national schemes that support us all. 

This close collaboration between STBs was evidenced in March 2018 when we issued a joint response to the government’s consultation on the Major Road Network (MRN). Six recommendations were presented to the Department for Transport, calling for an integral role in the definition and implementation of the MRN and the significant funding pipeline that it requires. Specifically, we called for the local authority roads of the MRN to be taken forward with Highways England’s Strategic Road Network as a single investment programme, to ensure maximum return on investment. 

Regional expertise must continue to be utilised to streamline and accelerate the planning processes. We must make sure transport planning, investment and delivery respond to and anticipate the fast-evolving 21stcentury demands being placed on the network. To do this we will invest in developing detailed proposals that create a clear investment pipeline. We will work with Government to prioritise the public sector investment available.

The National Infrastructure Commission, in its national assessment in July 2018, acknowledged STBs’ important role in developing and delivering national infrastructure programmes and making sure they integrate with local and regional schemes. Industry is listening too. In August 2018, the CBI’s Driving Delivery report on regional infrastructure called on the government to formalise STB powers, strengthen our role in strategic decision making, and expand the model to other parts of the country.

We must champion the role transport investment has in delivering sustainable and inclusive growth. STBs help bring people and jobs closer together, accelerating social mobility and opening up our labour markets more widely, while always considering the environmental impact. And, as “the future of mobility” becomes clearer, we must influence and harness the power of pioneering new technologies that are quickly revolutionising how we all move around.

There’s still a long way to go. Transport for the North is the only STB with statutory powers and, although ministers and peers are supportive of establishing more, we must continue to promote the benefits of our work and collaboration across the country. During a period of unprecedented economic uncertainty, STBs play a vital role in identifying and delivering a long-term pipeline of infrastructure investment that can give businesses the confidence and certainty they need to invest and grow.

The ultimate prize is much bigger than less congested roads and faster, more frequent train services. STBs are about creating a transport system that is user-focused, responsive, and enables the UK to compete in global markets. Together we will make life better for people and businesses, rebalancing the UK economy and turning our regions into exciting places to grow and thrive for generations to come.

Barry White, Chief Executive, Transport for the North 

Maria Machancoses, Director, Midlands Connect 

Martin Tugwell, Programme Director, England’s Economic Heartland

Rupert Clubb, Chief Officer, Transport for the South East  


  • The four STB chief officers are jointly presenting in the main theatre at Highways UK on 7 November. The STBs are also running the English Regions Hub within Highways UK, which includes briefings across the two days on both their individual and collective priorities.


Barry White, Maria Machancoses, Rupert Clubb and Martin Tugwell

Barry White, Maria Machancoses, Rupert Clubb and Martin Tugwell – Chief Officers of England’s STBs write…