A new body created to improve the transportation network and grow the economy of the whole of the UK’s South East area wants the ability to set investment plans for the region’s roads and railways, reduce emissions, improve air quality, and make travelling simpler and easier.
Established in 2017, Transport for the South East (TfSE) brings together representatives of 16 transport authorities, including Network Rail and Highways England (HE), and five local enterprise partnerships covering an area stretching from the English Channel to the border of London, and from the Kent coast to Berkshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Not only does this area include major airports, ports, roads and rail routes, it is also a powerful economic motor for the whole of the UK, adding £200bn (US$260bn) a year to the national economy. TfSE is seeking new powers and responsibilities that are part of a draft proposal to the UK Government, which makes the case for statutory status as a sub-national transport body.
TfSE will publish a transport strategy for public consultation in the autumn and intends to submit its bid to government to become a statutory body by the end of the year. Achieving statutory status would allow TfSE to directly influence government decision-making on transport issues on behalf of the South East’s people and businesses and give it the tools to deliver major improvements to the region’s transport network. A 12-week consultation period on the draft proposal is now underway, giving people and businesses in the South East and neighboring regions the opportunity to have their say. The draft proposal to government has been developed in conjunction with member authorities and agreed by TfSE’s shadow partnership board, which comprises representatives from local transport authorities, local enterprise partnerships and protected landscapes.
The powers and responsibilities included in the proposal include:
- Roads: Setting the Roads Investment Strategy for the region (jointly with the transport secretary) and various powers to enable the construction of road improvements schemes;
- Buses: Various duties and powers to improve bus services for passenger and provide improved alternatives to car travel;
- Rail: Greater influence over rail investment and franchise arrangements;
- Smart ticketing: Powers to enable the delivery of a region-wide integrated smart ticketing scheme;
- Air quality: The power to implement road charging schemes linked to Clean Air Zones to improve quality of life for people in the South East.
“The South East contributes more to the UK economy than any region outside London and is our country’s major international gateway for people and goods. When the South East prospers, the whole country prospers,” noted Keith Glazier, chair of TfSE. “A regional transport body that can directly influence how and where money is spent, with the power to deliver real improvements for people and businesses, is absolutely vital if we’re to continue growing our economy, supporting new housing, improving quality of life, and protecting our precious environment.”