09 October 2017
Cllr Heather Smith and the Mayor's Transport Strategy report front cover

London's strategic infrastructure requirements must be balanced with that of the wider south-east, which is experiencing housing pressures on a similar scale to the capital and whose economy will continue to significantly contribute to UK Plc with the right investment.

That is the view of England's Economic Heartland's Strategic Transport Forum, in its response to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's draft Transport Strategy consultation.

Cllr Heather Smith, chairman of the Heartland's Strategic Transport Forum, said: "The Heartland continues to experience growth on a scale comparable to London, while the National Infrastructure Commission has identified the Oxford to Cambridge corridor as being of critical importance to the UK economy's long-term future – but that potential can only be realised with investment in the right strategic infrastructure.

"It is therefore essential that the interests of London are balanced with the interests of the surrounding area when deciding priorities for investment in strategic infrastructure.

"There has been, and will continue to be, a strong economic link between the Heartland and London.  However, improvements in infrastructure are essential in order to realise the economic opportunities across the Heartland.  The Heartland's strategic needs though are in many cases also of strategic importance to London.

"For example, a priority in the Mayor of London's draft strategy is to free up capacity on the London rail network – and improved east-west connectivity along the Cambridge to Oxford corridor will do just that, by giving people an alternative to travelling into London as well as making it easier to connect economic centres across the Heartland.

"East West Rail also has the potential to provide an alternative for long-distance rail freight currently using the capital's rail network, as it improves connectivity from some of the UK's major ports and inland markets.

"Given the very real connections between the Heartland and the capital, it is key that moving forward we work collaboratively with the Mayor of London to realise our joint strategic ambitions.

"That is why the Strategic Transport Forum is seeking an active and on-going dialogue with the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TfL). This should also include the other emerging Sub-national Transport Body, Transport for the South East.

"A collaborative approach on matters of strategic significance is essential and in the best interests of transport users and businesses across the greater South East."

The Forum has welcomed several aspects of the Mayor of London's draft strategy, including the identification of infrastructure corridors such as that between Oxford and Cambridge.

And it is welcoming the Mayor of London's support to promote the improvement in surface links to London's airports, welcoming reference to the need for longer trains to serve Luton Airport as part of the Thameslink programme, and for the provision of a new automated people mover to better connect Luton Airport with the rail network.

However, the Forum is warning against any proposal that would result in further devolution of responsibility to the Mayor for local rail services operating between the Heartland and the capital.

It also wants more details on the practical implications of the suggestion that regional and national public transport schemes should be integrated into London's public transport system.