England's Economic Heartland (EEH) has launched a new strategy to enable the region's transport system to underpin a green recovery from COVID-19.
The sub-national transport body (STB) - covering a wide region from Swindon to Cambridgeshire, and through to Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire - has launched its draft transport strategy for consultation and is seeking views on plans to become a statutory body.
EEH covers an area from Swindon across to Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire down to Hertfordshire
EEH said the strategy provides the opportunity ‘to do things differently in order for the region to realise its potential’.
It said that while carbon emissions from transport in the region are higher and growing faster than the national average, there is currently often little alternative to the car, particularly for the region's significant rural population.
‘Congestion and delays on the road and rail networks are common, impacting the environment, quality of life and business productivity.’
Mayor Dave Hodgson, chair of EEH’s Strategic Transport Forum, said: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has shown there is considerable scope to increase our use of flexible and remote working, to challenge received wisdom when it comes to the future of our transport system and to do things differently.
‘We have the opportunity to embed new behaviours when it comes to our travel choices, to bring individual transport networks together to form a transport system that offers choice, flexibility and reliability to the user.
‘Our analysis has shown that to get to where we need to be, we cannot rely alone on national interventions such as the ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2035, as welcome as they are. That's why our strategy goes further.’
The strategy includes an investment pipeline of the strategic transport infrastructure that EEH said is required for the region to meet its ambitions and details of connectivity studies that EEH will take forward by working with its partners, through which future investment requirements will be identified.
EEH set out how the transport system will support sustainable economic growth while reaching net zero carbon emissions no later than 2050, including measures to:
- work with the area's world-leading innovators to trial and deploy cleaner and smarter connectivity across the region
- champion investment in better digital connectivity to increase people's ability to work from home, reducing the need to travel
- maximise the potential of East West Rail and use it as the catalyst for transforming public transport across the region
- enhance walking and cycling infrastructure and 'shared transport' to improve local connectivity
- ensure the region's freight and logistics needs continue to be met, while lowering their environmental impact
Transport for the South East (TfSE), another non-statutory STB, is set to finalise its transport strategy and a proposal to government for statutory status at a meeting on Thursday (16 July).