England’s Economic Heartland (EEH) has outlined its immediate priorities for transport investment with the delivery of a new Oxford to Cambridge expressway forming part of its wish list.
Ahead of next week’s Autumn Statement, EEH’s brand new ‘Planning for Growth’ document sets out the case for ambitious proposals to improve east to west connectivity across the Heartland linking Oxford to Milton Keynes and on to Cambridge, the three fastest growing cities in the country.
Heather Smith (pictured), leader of Northamptonshire County Council and chairman of the Strategic Transport Forum said that Planning for Growth was a key milestone for realising the true economic potential of the Heartland area.
She said: “Local people and businesses across the Heartland are all too aware that there is a need to improve connectivity, in particular east to west transport links across our area. With the expected growth in population of around 1.6 million 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.
“This Statement is an important step in our campaign to cement the case for investment in the Heartland area. By joining together and providing strategic leadership, the Strategic Alliance can properly represent the needs of nearly 3.5m people and 175,000 businesses. Strategic leadership is needed to ensure that our communities’ needs are understood within Government and funding is made available to deliver infrastructure.”
The 24-page document sets out an initial vision for strategic transport links serving the Heartland area and will form the foundation on which a longer-term transport strategy will be developed as the Strategic Alliance looks towards establishing a statutory Sub-national Transport Board.
The position statement calls for:
- The Government to commit to the full delivery of East-West 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
- The 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.
England’s Economic Heartland chairman and leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, Martin Tett (pictured left), added: “Investing in the Heartland economy will realise an additional £20bn return from our economy. The Government’s emerging Industrial Strategy is saying that every area across the country needs to play its part. This statement clearly signals that the Heartland is ready to step up to the plate.
“With our future economic potential, it’s crystal clear to me that if the UK wants to stay ahead, it needs to invest in England’s Economic Heartland.”
EEH’s Strategic Transport Forum brings together the public and private sectors to provide leadership on strategic transport issues across England’s Economic Heartland: it brings together:
– The nine councils with transport responsibilities – Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Milton Keynes, Central Bedfordshire, Bedford Borough, Luton Borough, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough City.
– The three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire Thames Valley, and South East Midlands, and with cooperation with Greater Cambridge, Greater Cambridge Enterprise Partnership.
– Other partners – including Department for Transport, Highways England, Network Rail, bus operators, Oxfordshire Growth Board and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association.