Who does what on transport?

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Our Members are the driving force behind the development of public transport in the city regions.


Governance of transport in the UK is complex and in some areas (in particular the English city regions) is changing fast.

The majority of our full members are Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) who are responsible to Combined Authorities or Mayoral Combined Authorities - although in some areas (i.e. West Yorkshire and West Midlands) the PTE has been abolished and absorbed within the Combined Authority or Mayoral Combined Authority, and in others some of the more strategic functions of the PTE have been taken on by the Combined Authority or Mayoral Combined Authority. Meanwhile, in London a more fully empowered executive transport body (Transport for London) is responsible to a directly elected Mayor whose decisions are scrutinised by an elected assembly.

PTEs were created by the 1968 Transport Act to co-ordinate transport provision in most of Britain's largest conurbations (known as the Metropolitan Areas).

They are funded by a combination of local council tax and grants from national government.

Their main roles have been to:

  • contribute to the planning of local rail services (in partnership with the Department for Transport);
  • plan and fund socially necessary bus routes;
  • work in partnership with private operators to improve bus services - for example through bus priority schemes;
  • run concessionary travel schemes - including those for older, disabled and young people;
  • invest in local public transport networks - including new rail and bus stations;
  • develop and promote new public transport schemes - like light rail and guided bus networks;
  • provide impartial and comprehensive public transport information services - including by phone and internet;
  • manage and maintain bus interchanges, bus stops and shelters.

In some cases, PTEs or where there are successor bodies (a Combined Authority or a Mayoral Combined Authority) are the operators of public transport, such as some ferry services. However, the vast majority of public transport in PTE (or successor body) areas is operated by private companies. PTEs (or successor bodies) are also not the highways authority - this remains with District Councils (although in some areas the PTE or successor body is now playing a greater role).

​Further governance change is likely with different approaches being taken in different areas. However, overall the shift is towards a more focused city region governance, with more powers over transport devolved from central Government in order to deliver more coordinated and integrated transport strategy and delivery.

You can find out more about how UK transport governance works in our briefing, 'UK Transport Governance - an introduction'.

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