Transport for the South East (TfSE), the new body created to improve the transport network and grow the economy of the whole South East area, has both been recognised by government as contributing to transport policy in the area and told that the time is not yet right for devolution.
The body’s transport strategy will be used by government to help decide where, when and how to invest in the South East’s transport network. The thirty-year strategy, published this summer, sets out how, with the right investment, growing the South East’s economy can boost jobs and opportunity, improve quality of life and hit net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.
It was submitted to government in July, alongside a proposal for Transport for the South East to become a statutory sub-national transport body with devolved powers over road and rail investment priorities.
In a letter to the TfSE chairman, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed his support for sub-national transport bodies and for the work of Transport for the South East in particular – but said that he does not want to take forward statutory status or to transfer powers at this time.
The news follows confirmation from transport minister, Baroness Vere, that she has instructed Department for Transport officials to have regard to TfSE’s transport strategy when developing government policy.
Transport for the South East’s current focus is working with partners to develop a strategic investment plan for the region. Due for publication in 2022, this will set out the specific schemes, policies and initiatives needed to make the transport strategy a reality and will be delivered with partners including Network Rail and Highways England.
Transport for the South East’s board brings together representatives of 16 local transport authorities, five local enterprise partnerships, 46 district and borough authorities, protected landscapes and Network Rail, Highways England and Transport for London.
Its chairman, Cllr Keith Glazier, said: “Transport for the South East has emerged as a powerful and effective partnership for our region.
“We have shown what can be achieved through a focus on collaboration and consensus, with the result that we now have a transport strategy for our region which carries real weight and influence and will shape government decisions about where, when and how to invest in our region.
“Now may not be the time for government to give us the tools we will need to deliver our transport strategy. But I’m confident that our case will only continue to strengthen as we develop our strategic investment plan and set out our priorities for the future.”