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Centro to be abolished as WMCA takes charge of transport

Centro to be abolished as WMCA takes charge of transport

🕔15.Sep 2015

The West Midlands passenger transport executive Centro is to be abolished 46 years after it was formed to run the region’s buses and trains.

Staff will be transferred to jobs at the new combined authority, which will set up its headquarters at Centro House in Birmingham.

The decision by the region’s council leaders to close Centro is a surprise.

It had been thought the organisation would remain in place and be re-named Transport for West Midlands when the combined authority begins work in April 2016.

The cost of closing down Centro and moving staff has been put at up to £450,000, mainly in legal fees, and will be met by the seven West Midlands metropolitan councils.

A major part of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s mission will be to run transport, as well as economic development. The integrated transport authority, which last year replaced the passenger transport authority, will also be scrapped, staff transferred to and its duties taken over by WMCA.

Details of the shake-up are contained in documents prepared for the integrated transport authority.

Other combined authorities including Merseyside, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and the North East have retained their stand-alone passenger transport structures.

But the West Midlands council leaders say there are advantages to having a single body, as West Yorkshire combined authority has done. The ITA report notes:

It was considered by West Yorkshire that the transitional costs of transfer were justified by the opportunity this would provide to establish an effective, stream-lined delivery body, positioned to progress a wide range of integrated economic development and transport agendas for a bold, future proofed combined authority.

Getting rid of Centro and the ITA will streamline governance and improve accountability as well as bringing expertise into one entity, working direct to a new body, it is claimed. The report adds:

Given the wider growth agenda that the combined authority has, this option provided a real opportunity to build a fit for purpose body best placed to effectively deliver the agenda and to ensure the effective streamlining of economic development and transport decision making and delivery arrangements, and their deliverability.

There’s also a warning about the work involved:

The dissolution of the PTE and ITA will require significant legal input to ensure the appropriate transfer of contracts, property etc. at a practical level.

The document also confirms that discussions with the Government about WMCA propose establishing a strategic route network for the area in a similar way to Transport for London.

Any additional costs arising from the dissolution could be met from the funding contributions already committed by the districts in order to create the combined Authority.

The report continues:

Whilst West Yorkshire combined authority did not keep a record of the actual costs involved with the dissolution of their PTE it was estimated to be in the region of £400/450k, their PTE initial estimate of cost being in the region of £600/650k. However most of this cost was based on existing staff time and a one-off cost but took no account of the on-going efficiencies achieved.

The West Midlands passenger transport executive was formed in 1969 and acquired the vehicles and other assets of the municipal bus fleets of Birmingham, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, and later Coventry.

Centro later took responsibility for local rail services and also operates the concessionary fares scheme on buses and trains.

The corporate name of Centro was adopted in the early 1990s.

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