Leaders from across the South East have launched an ambitious new partnership to transform the transport network and to ensure the area remains a driver of the UK economy.
Transport for the South East (TfSE) will speak with a single voice on the area’s transport priorities. It will devise an integrated transport strategy to focus the attention of Government on the area’s needs and will directly influence when and where money is invested in the South East’s transport network.
The new partnership brings together the area’s 16 transport authorities and five local enterprise partnerships to work directly with the Department for Transport. It will also involve road and rail-builders Highways England and Network Rail, transport operators, transport users and other key interest groups. A sub-national transport body, TfSE is currently operating in shadow form but intends to secure full Government backing and statutory powers within two years.
At the first meeting of TfSE, partners elected Cllr Keith Glazier, Leader of East Sussex County Council as chairman with Cllr Tony Page, Deputy Leader of Reading Borough Council and representative of the Berkshire Local Transport Forum, as vice-chairman.
Partners discussed their ambitions to not only deliver smoother, congestion-free journeys and make the best use of digital and emerging technology in transport, but also to enhance the South East’s vital role in national growth.
Cllr Glazier said: ‘The South East is a major driver of the UK economy – contributing over £200 billion a year, more than Scotland and Wales combined. But its transport network is creaking so it’s vital the Government does not take its foot off the pedal in targeting much-needed investment in this area. This is why we have come together to highlight the transport priorities for our residents and businesses and find innovative ways of building a truly resilient and modern transport system that will enhance the South East’s success.
‘Our transport network is nationally and internationally significant: it takes in two of the country’s biggest airports, many of its busiest motorways, a string of major ports and crucial railway links to London, the rest of Britain and to mainland Europe. But there’s no one body which directs this area network, and that’s the vitally important job that Transport for the South East can fulfil. ’
Councillor Rob Humby, Executive Member for Environment and Transport at Hampshire County Council said: “It’s important that Hampshire is part of this initiative right from the start. As a significant contributor to the national economy, effective transport infrastructure in the South East is essential. With major motorways and national routes running through the county and important rail freight links between the Midlands and the Port of Southampton – the gateway to international markets, the right investment in road and rail infrastructure is essential. Securing improvements to these networks, which are already close to capacity, is essential for the future prosperity not only of Hampshire and the South East, but also the whole country.”
The area covered by TfSE takes in Berkshire, Brighton and Hove, Kent, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Medway, Portsmouth, Southampton, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex. It has 7.5 million residents and more than 24,000 miles of road while its ports collectively handle 81 million tonnes of freight each year.
The creation of sub-national transport bodies such as TfSE, Transport for the North and Midlands Connect was enabled by law in 2016, allowing decisions on strategic transport investment to move from national to area level. The Government’s industrial strategy and its devolution agenda also support the principle of allowing places to build on their strengths and remove obstacles to further sustainable growth.
Work is now beginning to prepare for a comprehensive future transport strategy for the South East, identifying where investment and innovation can transform journeys for travellers and businesses. This will include examining the options for smart, integrated ticketing to allow more seamless travel across a wide area.
TfSE will be consulting South East residents and key interest groups on the scope and final shape of the strategy. It intends to move to full operation, with government backing, in 2019.