Transport government, planning and delivery in England

The Department for Transport (DfT) is the government ministerial department responsible for the English transport network and a limited number of transport matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that have not been devolved.

Following devolution from 1998 onwards, devolved transport policies are the responsibility of the relevant administrations, assemblies and Parliaments, they are not scrutinised at Westminster. Further information about national and devolved transport is here, including a downloadable report.

The Department for Transport is run by the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps and is supported by 24 agencies and public bodies.

The DfT and its agencies employ 18,599 staff across the country. You can download the DfT organisational chart here

DfT organisational  chart February 2020 med crop

The Department for Transport ministers are:

Secretary of State – Grant Shapps MP  Portfolio: Overall responsibility for the DfT; oversight of all areas;  read more

Minister of State – Chris Heaton-Harris MP  Portfolio: Rail, East West Rail, cycling and walking, Crossrail and Crossrail 2, accessibility, corporate; read more

Minister of State – George Freeman MP  Portfolio: Transport technology and innovation; Future of Mobility Grand Challenge; decarbonisation and environment; Office for Low Emissions Vehicles; Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles; spaceports and freeports; devolution and housing; East-West connectivity

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport – Nusrat Ghani MP  Portfolio: Maritime; skills and apprenticeships; Year of Engineering (legacy); accessibility (all modes); Lead Minister for Secondary Legislation; Shadow roads Minister in the Commons

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport – Paul Maynard MP  Portfolio: Northern Powerhouse Rail; HS2; Crossrail; East West Rail; TransPennine route upgrade; aviation (including Heathrow expansion)

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport – Baroness Vere of Norberto  Portfolio: Roads; security; freight (including EU Exit and rail); drones; taxis and buses; light rail; community transport; all Lords business

The Department for Transport is responsible for:

  • Providing policy, guidance, and funding to English local authorities to help them run and maintain their road networks, improve passenger and freight travel, and develop new major transport schemes
  • Investing in, maintaining and operating around 4,300 miles of the motorway and trunk road network in England through Highways England
  • Setting the strategic direction for the rail industry in England and Wales – funding investment in infrastructure through Network Rail, awarding and managing rail franchises, and regulating rail fares
  • Improving English bus services through funding and regulation
  • Working to make our roads less congested and polluted by promoting lower carbon transport, including cycling and walking
  • Encouraging the use of new technology such as smart ticketing and low carbon vehicles
  • Maintaining high standards of safety and security in transport
  • Supporting the maritime sector by producing the overall strategy and planning policy for ports in England and Wales
  • Setting national aviation policy, working with airlines, airports, the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS (the UK’s air traffic service)

The 24 agencies and public bodies the DfT works with are:

Non-ministerial department

  • Office of Rail and Road

Executive agency

  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
  • Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency
  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency
  • Vehicle Certification Agency

Executive non-departmental public body

  • British Transport Police Authority
  • Directly Operated Railways Limited
  • High Speed Two (HS2) Limited
  • Northern Lighthouse Board
  • Transport Focus
  • Trinity House

Advisory non-departmental public body

  • Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise


  • Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain

Public corporation

  • Civil Aviation Authority
  • Crossrail International
  • London and Continental Railways Limited


  • Air Accidents Investigation Branch
  • DfT OLR Holdings Limited
  • Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee
  • East West Railway Company Limited
  • Highways England
  • Marine Accident Investigation Branch
  • Network Rail
  • Rail Accident Investigation Branch


England has 343 principal councils (including the 32 London boroughs) of which 317 set and bill Council Tax.

In the capital, Transport for London, is responsible for planning and delivery (see below).

In the rest of England, the pattern of local government is complex, with the distribution of transport functions varying according to the local arrangements, but in all cases, responsibility starts with local councils of different types (borough, city and county):

  1. Non-metropolitan areas (Shires): These are traditional two-tier authorities with a lower tier of district councils and an upper tier of a county council. There are 26 county councils, covering 192 district councils. The County Councils generally take on all the transport functions.
  2. Unitary authorities (Shires): Single-tier shire authorities created by merging the district and county councils into one body. They generally take on all the transport functions.
  3. Metropolitan boroughs (Mets): Single-tier authorities in city areas. In most cases local they carry out road maintenance, but wider transport powers are handled to the Combined Authority
  4. Combined authorities (Mets and Shires): Second Tier bodies that sit above Mets and Shires with wider powers for transport, economic development and regeneration, with certain delegated (devolved) functions from central government. More details in the separate section further down the page.

The government-owned company, Highways England, is charged with operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads (trunk roads) – a map is here. Other A roads and local roads are managed by local authorities, or Transport for London. Highways England reports to the Department for Transport.

Transport for London  (TfL)

The statutory sub-national integrated transport authority in Greater London. A local government body, TfL is controlled by a board whose members are appointed by the Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan, Labour).

The Commissioner, Transport for London reports to the Board and leads a management team with individual functional responsibilities.

Its 2019/20 budget is £10.3bn, of which 47% comes from fares. The rest comes from other income (including the Congestion Charge, property and advertising), funding by the 23 London boroughs and borrowing. It spends 79% on running the network and 21% on capital investment. It employs 28,000 people.

TfL is responsible for implementing the Mayor’s strategy and commitments on transport in London. The Mayor’s Transport Strategy  has set a target that 80% of all journeys will be made on foot, by cycle or using public transport by 2041, up from 64% in 2017. TfL runs the day-to-day operation of the Capital’s public transport network and manages London’s main roads.

Transport for London is responsible for:

  • London Buses
  • London Underground
  • Docklands Light Railway (DLR)
  • London Overground
  • TfL Rail (Crossrail)
  • London trams (Tramlink)
  • London’s strategic road network (see below)
  • River services
  • London Dial-a-Ride
  • Coaches and Victoria Coach Station
  • Cycling and walking
  • Emirates Air Line (cable car)
  • Taxis and private hire

More details are here

Responsibility for managing London’s road network is shared between TfL, the 32 London boroughs, City of London. Highways England manages the M25, M1, M4 and M11 motorways in London,

TfL manages the strategic road network called the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN), also known as London’s ‘red routes’ and is responsible for the Capital’s 6,300 sets of traffic lights. It also is responsible for traffic enforcement.  The boroughs are responsible for all the remaining roads within their boundaries, including parking and its enforcement.

Combined Authorities (CA)

Introduced in England from 2011 there are 10 Combined Authorities, with 4 more currently proposed.

A legal entity, they are created in areas where they are considered likely to improve transport, economic development and regeneration.

They enable a group of local authorities to pool appropriate responsibility and receive certain delegated functions from central government in order to deliver transport and economic policy more effectively over a wider area.

They are able to assume the role of an integrated transport authority and economic prosperity board with wide-ranging powers to exercise any function of its constituent councils that relates to economic development and regeneration, and any of the functions that are available to integrated transport authorities.

For transport, CAs are able to borrow money and can levy constituent authorities.

The regions are formed voluntarily by local constituent authorities in agreement with each other, leading to a variety of geographical regions. In most cases they have a ‘Metro Mayor’ – who has executive functions – directly elected by ordinary voters.

In metropolitan areas, CAs have taken over the functions of the former Passenger Transport Authorities (PTAs). 

Some Combined Authorities have executive delivery bodies – Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) – that deliver transport information through a unified public-facing brand.

PTEs also fund socially and strategically-important bus and rail services. Some PTEs operate cross-river ferries (Merseyside and the North East/Tyneside), tram/light rail services (Manchester, North East/Tyneside, Sheffield) and heavy rail (Merseyside).

The current Combined Authorities are:

  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (6 constituent authorities)
          Mayor: Dr Nik Johnson (Labour)
  • Greater Manchester (10 constituent authorities) PTE/brand: Transport for Greater Manchester/TfGM
          Mayor: Andy Burnham (Labour)
  • Liverpool City Region (6 constituent authorities) PTE/brand: Merseytravel,
          Mayor: Steve Rotherham (Labour)
  • North of Tyne (3 constituent authorities) PTE/brand: Nexus
          Mayor: Jamie Driscoll (Labour)
  • Tees Valley (5 constituent authorities)
          Mayor: Ben Houchen (Conservative)
  • North East (4 constituent authorities) PTE/brand: Nexus,
          No Mayor
  • Sheffield City Region (4 constituent authorities) PTE/brand: Travel South Yorkshire,
          Mayor: Dan Jarvis MP (Labour)
  • West Midlands (7 constituent authorities) PTE/brand: West Midlands Network,
          Mayor: Andy Street (Conservative)
  • West Yorkshire (5 constituent authorities) PTE/brand: Metro,
         Mayor: Tracy Brabin (Labour)
  • West of England (3 constituent authorities)
          Mayor: Dan Norris (Labour)

Proposed Combined Authorities (in discussion between the local councils) are:

  • Cheshire and Warrington (Cheshire East, Cheshire West, Chester City and Warrington councils)
  • Heart of the South West (councils in Devon and Somerset)
  • Leicester and Leicestershire (the city and county councils)

No timescales have been set for a decision on whether to proceed. Information will be posted on our News Pages

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP)

There are 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships across England, including London.

They are voluntary business-led partnerships between local authorities and businesses set up in 2011 by the government to help determine local economic priorities, lead economic growth and job creation within the local area.

They carry out some of the functions previously carried out by the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) that were abolished in March 2012. They also have an interest in, and influence on, regional transport strategy.

They play a central role in determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive economic growth and job creation, improve infrastructure and raise workforce skills within the local area. 

LEP boards are led by a business Chair and board members are local leaders of industry (including SMEs), educational institutions and the public sector. 

LEPs’ geographical areas often overlap with that of Local Authorities and Combined Authorities, recognising that economic growth is not always easily contained by the authorities’ geographical boundaries.

To view all LEPs visit this interactive network map

Map showing all 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships across England

LEPs also work with the government’s Cities and Local Growth Unit, a cross-cutting team of 160 people across the Business and Local Government Departments. The team has a Whitehall-based group and regional teams across England.

The team boosts local growth in England by devolving powers and budgets, enabling more decisions to be taken at a local level, such as bespoke Devolution Deals with major city regions, and putting in place Growth Deals with the LEPs using a £2bn annual Local Growth Fund.

Sub-national transport bodies (SNTB)

A sub-national transport body (SNTB) is a government-backed transport strategy organisation, created under transport devolution enacted in 2016.

A SNTB initially exists in a ‘shadow’ non-statutory form as an informal partnership while a detailed business case for a statutory body with new powers is considered. It can then be put on a statutory footing by secondary legislation, under the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.

Statutory SNTBs are required to publish a transport strategy, which the Secretary of State must then have regard to in setting and implementing national transport policy.

Bringing together local transport authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and other stakeholders, they produce strategic transport strategies  for their areas at a much larger scale than existing local transport authorities are able to.

They do not replace or replicate the work of existing local transport bodies, but speak with one voice on the transport infrastructure investment needed to drive transformational growth in their region

The role is to add strategic value by ensuring that funding and strategy decisions about transport are informed by local knowledge and requirements.

This fits with the devolution agenda and SNTBs will draw powers down from central government, rather than up from local government.

There are 6 SNTBs, plus 1 proposed:

  • Transport for the North (statutory) – It brings together 20 local transport authorities from the Scottish border down to North East Lincolnshire in the west and Cheshire’s councils in the west.
  • Midlands Connect (pre-statutory) – A partnership of 22 local authorities, 9 Local Enterprise Partnerships, East Midlands and Birmingham airports, and Chambers of Commerce. It stretches from the Welsh border to the Lincolnshire coast.
  • England’s Economic Heartland (pre-statutory) – A partnership of 11 councils and 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships, covering the wider Swindon/Oxfordshire to the Bedfordshire/ Cambridgeshire region, including Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. 
  • Transport for the South East (pre-statutory) – A partnership of 13 councils and 2 Local Enterprise Partnerships, covering the region from Berkshire to West Sussex and across to Kent.
  • Peninsula Transport (pre-statutory) – Covering the South West Peninsula, the partnership brings together Cornwall, Devon, Torbay, Plymouth and Somerset councils, 2 Local Enterprise Partnerships, Highways England, Homes England and Network Rail.
  • Western Gateway (pre-statutory) – It brings together councils in Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath, Dorset, Wiltshire, NE Somerset and the West of England Combined Authority.
  • Transport East (proposed) – Started in March 2018 in ‘pre-shadow’ form, the non-statutory Transport East Forum, working under the brand Transport East, is a partnership of Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Southend-on-Sea councils, business leaders, Chambers of Commerce, Network Rail and Highways England. It plans to develop a high-level Transport Strategy. Currently in its early stages, it plans to move from a Forum to SNTB in the future.

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