20 January 2019

England's Economic Heartland's Strategic Transport Forum takes place in Bedford on January 25.

It is the first meeting to have a dedicated slot for members of the public to make comments to Forum members and will be also be recorded.

On the agenda:

East West Rail Central Section: The Forum will receive an update from the East West Railway Company on the forthcoming consultation on route options between Bedford and Cambridge. It will be asked to agree arrangements for responding to the consultation. The Forum’s consideration of the options for the Central Section may identify other investment requirements that need to be fed into the investment programme for the Heartland in support of the overarching Transport Strategy. 

Freight and logistics study: The Forum will receive an update from WSP's Ian Brooker on EEH's emerging Freight Study. Themes included in the Freight Study include:

  • Technology Review: opportunities for innovation that improve the efficiency of freight in the Heartland including technical work with Transport Systems Catapult and engagement with leading freight innovation companies
  • Potential for modal shift: ongoing dialogue with Transport for London, Network Rail and East West Railway Company and East West Rail Consortium is shaping our position on the potential opportunity for rail freight
  • Linkages with the National Infrastructure Commission: WSP’s analysis and supporting evidence to the National Infrastructure Commission has demonstrated synergies with our study and continues to guide thinking in the Heartland.

Potential proposals in the Freight Study include:

  • Creation of an England's Economic Heartland Freight Partnership Group/Forum
  • Universal standards for freight provision into transport infrastructure planning and community planning including ‘last meter’ deliveries
  • The development of a ‘toolkit’ of standards and restrictions for freight in urban areas and construction sites
  • A standardised approach and methodology to collecting and presenting the evidence and impact of lorry bans
  • Actions to improve efficient use of freight vehicles
  • Actions to support modal shift
  • Proposals for freight on East West Rail
  • Logistics innovation: data sharing and collaboration along the East West Corridor
  • Improving freight links to ports and alternatives to the Golden Triangle of Logistics.

Milton Keynes-Cambridge roads connectivity study: The Forum will be asked to agree a proposal to develop a better understanding of connectivity between Milton Keynes and Cambridge. The study will apply broadly the same approach underpining England's Economic Heartland's connectivity study for the section of the Oxford-Cambridge expressway between Oxford and Milton Keynes.  It will examine the area east of the M1. While this area already includes a commitment to deliver improvements to the eastern part of the Oxford-Cambridge expressway (notably A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet), the work proposed is much broader. As part of this approach there would be a need to also consider wider linkages to the east of Cambridgeshire and also to the north-west.

Oxford-Milton Keynes section of Oxford-Cambridge expressway:  The Forum will receive an update from Highways England on the Oxford-Milton Keynes section of the Oxford-Cambridge expressway. At the previous meeting, Forum members raised concerns about the expressway being planned in isolation of wider activity underway within the area, most notably the transformative impact of East West Rail. The Forum was clear that any future infrastructure, including the Oxford-Cambridge expressway must not inadvertently undermine such progress in meeting the strategic vision and priorities of England's Economic Heartland's Transport strategy. Forum members wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport to ensure that where funding was available to invest, it would be targeted in ways that maximised the benefit to local communities and businesses.

Forum members will also be asked to note progress of the Oxford-Milton Keynes Connectivity Study. The study will consider a number of issues.

  • Economic Productivity – in recent years economic growth across the region has largely been achieved by exploiting the capacity of the existing infrastructure. Increased demand, combined with underinvestment in infrastructure and services has led to deterioration in infrastructure condition, an increase in congestion and a decline in resilience.
  • Digital Economy - the continued growth of the digital economy, in particular the creation of new business models for service delivery (by both public and private sectors) means that the way in which people access opportunities and services continues to undergo fundamental change. This is already having implications on travel patterns and demand, and is a trend that is likely to continue moving forward: indeed it is one that we need to encourage if we are to deliver net betterment
  • Changes in Geography – improved connectivity (whether physical or digital) means that traditional ‘market areas’ have changed and will continue to change. Underpinning the National Infrastructure Commission’s work on the Oxford-Cambridge Arc is the premise that across the region the sum will be bigger than the individual parts: our approach to identifying future infrastructure needs through the connectivity study needs to be shaped by the principle that both housing market areas and functional economic areas will change.
  • Pace of Change – in seeking to identify future infrastructure requirements there is a need for flexibility and adaptability in our approach. The extended timescale associated with designing and delivering major new infrastructure makes it vulnerable to becoming outdated by societal and economic changes. The danger therein is that the desire, and need, to encourage a more sustainable pattern of development is inadvertently undermined by investment in infrastructure and services that perpetuate patterns of travel and demand that are inconsistent with the need to deliver ‘net betterment’.
  • Vision-led Scenario Planning – by definition transformational growth requires a paradigm shift. Traditional approaches to the identification of infrastructure requirements run the risk of perpetuating the current paradigm. We therefore require a new approach to strategic infrastructure planning, one that employs new tools and uses scenario planning to set the framework within which more detailed proposals at the local level can be developed and implemented.

A428 Black Cat-Caxton Gibbet: The Forum will receive an update on improvements to the A428 between Black Cat and Caxton Gibbet - a fundamental part of the 'eastern section' of the Oxford-Cambridge expressway.

Major Road Network and Large Local Majors:  It is recommended that the Forum: 

  • Welcomes the publication of the Government’s Major Road Network (MRN) and Large Local Majors Investment Planning Guidance
  • Ask all local partners – local transport authorities, local enterprise partnerships and local planning authorities – to provide an initial indication of prospective proposals for MRN funding consideration by the 8th February.
  • Requests urgent clarification on the status of the ‘early entry’ proposals submitted for consideration in 2018.
  • Agrees the proposed approach to developing the Forum’s submission for investment priorities for the Major Road Network and Large Local Major. ​