One of the country's most important public sector transport groups, England’s Economic Heartland (EEH), has set out its priorities for investment ahead of the Autumn Statement next week.
The regional partnership of councils and local enterprise partnerships has published a new Planning for Growth document, which sets out the case for improving East to West connectivity across the area, linking the fast-growing cities of Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.
Cllr Heather Smith
The ‘position statement’ document sets out an initial vision for strategic transport links, including ‘quick win’ priorities for funding, and will form the basis for a longer-term transport strategy as EEH looks towards establishing a statutory sub-national transport board.
Cllr Heather Smith, leader of Northamptonshire County Council and chairman of the EEH Strategic Transport Forum, described the document as a key milestone for realising the true economic potential of the area.
She said: ‘With the expected growth in population of around 1.6 m to the middle of the century, we simply have to invest more in our current transport systems and infrastructure. This will in turn, improve conditions for transport users and give confidence to businesses to make their investments here in the Heartland area.’
The position statement echoes many of the findings of a report published on Wednesday by the National Infrastructure Commission. It calls for:
- The Government to commit to the full delivery of East-West Rail, linking Oxford to Cambridge, with an immediate start on the Oxford – Milton Keynes to Bedford section.
- The delivery of the shared ambition of a new Oxford to Cambridge expressway standard route to deliver economic growth and better connectivity: ‘this should start with the Government funding a long-term solution for the "country lane" single carriageway section of the A428 from Black Cat roundabout to Caxton Gibbet’.
- he identification of a Major Road Network – that brings together Highways England’s Strategic Road Network and Local Transport Authority major roads – and to use that as the basis for shaping future investment: it also calls on the Government to use the ring-fenced Vehicle Excise Duty to fund the investment.
- Support for investment in key transport interchanges so that rail systems can link properly with roads and other public transport provision
- Support for investment in improving so called ‘first mile/last mile’ transport links to help local people and businesses get to where they need more easily.