A GROUND-BREAKING bid for transport devolution in the South East has been submitted to government by a partnership of the region's local authorities and business leaders.

The proposal from Transport for the South East is designed to power-up the region’s economic recovery from the effects of Covid-19 and accelerate investment in sustainable transport as part of a thirty-year transport strategy.

If agreed by the Transport Secretary and approved by Parliament, Transport for the South East would become a statutory sub-national transport body with direct influence over government decision-making on transport issues and the powers needed to deliver major improvements to the region's transport network.

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The bid has the backing of the area's local authorities and economic partnerships (LEPs), representing more than 7.5m people and 300,000 businesses. Chambers of commerce, transport operators, ports, airports, protected landscapes and universities in the South East have also given their support, as have national organisations including the Confederation of British Industry and passenger watchdog Transport Focus.

Councillor Tony Page, vice chair of Transport for the South East and lead councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport at Reading Borough Council, said: "As a key economic player in the south east region, boasting a vast commuter catchment area and a major centre for shopping, health, education and leisure, Reading fully supports this bid to government.

"We welcome the TfSE transport strategy which will help deliver major transport projects in the south-east, including continuing support from TfSE to develop the powerful case for a Third Thames Bridge, east of Reading.

“The council is now close to finalising its new Local Transport Plan, which sets the strategy for 2036 for a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable town.

"It includes schemes to tackle poor air quality and congestion to help us achieve our net zero carbon target in less than a decade. Reading’s plan has been developed alongside the TfSE’s own Transport Strategy.

“The formation of TfSE as a statutory body brings with it significant benefits, not least enabling the South East region to speak with a united voice on key issues and being better represented at national level.

"It would help deliver a more co-ordinated long-term approach to transport strategy across the South East region, as well as the structure and support to assist local authorities in delivering major schemes as part of a wider integrated strategic vision."

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Cllr 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."

He added that transport for the South East has emerged as a "powerful and effective" partnership for the region, but delivering on ambitions would require "more than just a partnership working."

Transport for the South East was formed in 2017 and brings together 16 local transport authorities and five local economic partnerships along with other partners including Network Rail and Highways England to speak with one voice on the region’s transport investment priorities.

The powers and responsibilities Transport for the South East is seeking would allow the partnership 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 Secretary of State for Transport
  • 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

To read Transport for the South East’s proposal to government for statutory status, click here.