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South East in transport devolution bid

Words: Laura Edgar
Southeastern class 395s, Medway / Transport for the South East

Transport for the South East has submitted a bid to the government to become a statutory body so that it can accelerate investment in sustainable transport. 

Backed by a coalition of public and private sector organisations including councils, business groups, transport operators, and passenger groups, the proposal is also designed to “power-up” the region’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

If transport secretary Grant Shapps agrees to devolve powers and the bid is approved by Parliament, Transport for the South East would become a statutory subnational transport body. It would be able to influence government decision-making on transport issues and have the power to deliver improvements to the South East’s transport network.

Keith Glazier, chair of Transport for the South East, said: “The South East is a true powerhouse for the UK economy, contributing more than any other region outside London. It’s the country’s principal international gateway for people and goods and drives productivity and prosperity across the UK.

“Our transport strategy sets out how investment in a more sustainable transport network will help our economy recover and grow, delivering a green transport revolution that will create jobs, boost quality of life and help cut carbon emissions to net zero.

“Transport for the South East has quickly emerged as a powerful and effective partnership for our region, but delivering on our ambitions will require more than just partnership working. That’s why we want to formalise our role as the South East’s voice for strategic transport by becoming a statutory body.

“Statutory status will mean we can work with government to decide how and where money is spent on our region’s transport network and give us the powers we need to accelerate schemes and projects which are better for people, better for business and better for the planet.”

Formed in 2017, Transport for the South East brings together 16 local transport authorities and five local economic partnerships, together with Network Rail and Highways England to set out the region’s transport investment priorities.

The proposals states that a statutory subnational transport body for the South East is “vital” if the region is to increase its influence with the government and key stakeholders; secure investment in pan-regional strategic transport corridors; deliver sustainable economic growth, while protecting and enhancing the environment, reducing emissions and promoting social inclusion; and enable long-term planning. 

Transport for the South East is seeking the powers and responsibilities to:

  • Develop and implement a strategic investment plan for the region.
  • Act as ‘one voice’ for the South East in agreeing investment priorities with the transport secretary.
  • Become a statutory partner in road and rail investment decisions.
  • Improve bus services for passengers and provide improved alternatives to car travel.
  • Coordinate the delivery of region-wide integrated smart ticketing.
  • Implement road-charging schemes linked to Clean Air Zones to improve quality of life for people in the South East.

Transport for the South thinks that devolved powers would support the delivery of its 30-year transport strategy. This sets out how investment in sustainable transport can deliver a shift to public transport from cars, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle poor air quality. It also seeks to better connect its ports and airports and improve transport links for deprived communities. Transport for the South East’s partnership board approved the strategy after a public consultation. 

Transport for the South East's proposal can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | Transport for the South East