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Centro HS2 spending conundrum

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On November 25 the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority is to consider how to handle a ten per cent cut in funding. Because more than £87 million of the £146 million annual transport spend is allocated to financing charges and free travel for blind, mobility-impaired, and older people, a ~£14 million reduction would have to come from the ‘discretionary’ part of the budget (£59 million).

Pressure to identify savings is coming from the seven district councils (Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton) who are passing on government-imposed cuts on their own budgets (wrote Paul Dale on The Chamberlain Files).

[Paul Dale]

Public consultation is likely on a range of possible [Centro] service reductions, including:

– Children to pay two-thirds of the adult fare on buses instead of half.

– Removing free local rail and tram travel for eligible people, or introducing a nominal annual charge of around £30.

– Reducing the grant to Ring and Ride.

– Reducing the number of taxpayer funded bus services.

– Removing the locally funded ‘add on’ which allows eligible people to travel free on buses after 11pm.

Further options to fully achieve the proposed ten per cent reduction would include completely stopping Centro funding for Ring and Ride or for child bus fare concessions.

Only a few days ago, Centro were talking up a £2,400 million package for West Midlands public transport, based around connectivity for the proposed HS2 stations in Birmingham and Bickenhill. (That figure does not include planned road upgrades.)

[BBC News, 12 Nov 2013]

There is no date for work to start but it would ideally need to happen ahead of HS2’s arrival in 2026, Centro said.

Implementing Centro’s HS2 connectivity package before 2026 would mean an additional capital spend of £200 million or thereabouts, each year. But as Mr Dale revealed, the Authority seems unable to find £14 million even to maintain spending on everyday transport after 2013.

That said, there must be considerable scope to improve transport administration in the West Midlands. The Integrated Transport Authority and Centro (both of which are referred to as ‘Centro’) are unwieldy and poorly organised bodies. The Authority is run on an old-fashioned committee system with no fewer than 27 councillors. At the time of writing, as well as the main ITA, the Centro website lists eight committees and sub-committees.

West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority committees listed on Centro website, Nov 2013

The unwieldiness can also be seen in Centro’s October 2013 management chart, with its ill-defined job roles (‘Head of integrated services’, ‘Director of customer experience’, etc).

Centro management chart, Oct 2013

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Written by beleben

November 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro

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