Collaborate to unlock the real benefits from devolution in the North

Collaborate to unlock the real benefits from devolution in the North

It has moved beyond rhetoric to the point of no return. Pace has been swift – devolution deals have already been agreed and ratified across Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and the Tees Valley, with further deals submitted and pending. Across the North, political and geospatial differences are being set aside in favour of collaboration and working together. Seizing the moment to drive decision making and empowerment to a new benchmark.

Collaboration is now critical to ensure that the benefits and outcomes of devolution are realised. Across the Northern Powerhouse, devolved combined authorities, metropolitan mayors, transportation bodies such as Transport for the North and Rail North, industry and the supply chain are working together to optimise the application of local spending powers to transport priorities. 

Newly formed combined authorities are in some ways like start-up companies. While they have a strong history of delivering locally, many authorities now find themselves with the challenge of joining up across combined authority, geographic regions and beyond. This becomes an adaptive change challenge. It’s not about drawing new organisation charts and setting up processes or working groups. 

Collaborative behaviours become increasingly important to equip people to work across historic silos; they galvanise and motivate the delivery of transport investment programmes beyond their traditional ‘patch’. Although a challenge, embedding collaborative behaviours presents an incredible opportunity to drive real change, establish best practice and shared services on a scale not seen in a generation. It can allow us to respond to the devolution challenge of delivering growth and boosting productivity, and at the same time, address the fiscal challenges which authorities face in revenue budget reductions.  

But it doesn’t stop there. Devolved authorities in the Northern Powerhouse also need to collaborate with other transport authorities, agencies and operators, such as Network Rail, Highways England, HS2 and private developers. Joined up regional transport strategies are becoming ever so important in drawing together investment at local, regional, sub-regional and national levels. Momentum is building in this regard, but more must be done to better align local to regional priorities. With the advent of the new Mayoral Combined Authorities we will see a stronger voice into central government from the city regions. 

Joining up programmes is particularly important to ensure that we keep our cities and towns moving while we build and deliver new infrastructure. Historic approaches to managing disruption on some of our local transport networks, particularly roads, has to change. We need to embrace new ways of working, engage technology and look at how to prioritise investment to drive modal shift and smooth morning and evening peaks. Keeping our cities moving and open for business while we build and install the infrastructure the country so desperately needs.

Once arrangements for devolved transport planning powers are in place, the focus must rapidly move from start-up to delivery. Regional transport plans and the alignment of programmes are certainly essential and part of the solution. But don’t underestimate the importance of collaborative behaviours in making things work in practice.  


  • These themes will be explored in further detail within TfN’s Transforming the North conference which takes place in Harrogate on 21 June. The event is a collaboration between TfN and Highways UK, with Atkins, Jacobs, CH2M, Costain and Jacobs as private sector partners. For further details click here



Jason Pavey

Jason Pavey – Market Director for Local Transport, Atkins