02 August 2016

A successful economy that’s bursting to give even more may find it difficult in the future without better roads, rail and bus services.

That’s the message from the Transport Forum of England's Economic Heartland (EEH), an alliance of councils, local enterprise partnerships and other partners which met on July 22 in Milton Keynes.

They say that the current transport provision across an east/west arc from Oxford through Milton Keynes to Cambridge puts at risk a potential £20bn increase in the area's economy.

It's so concerned that it is preparing a case to Government for more investment so the full potential of the area's economy can be realised and allow it to improve its competitiveness in the global market.

Leader of Northamptonshire County Council and Chairman of the Transport Forum, Cllr Heather Smith said that due to the Heartland's unique location as the gateway to the Midlands and beyond,  future strategic transport improvements would also be hugely beneficial to the UK economy as a whole.

'Our Alliance area economy already generates £92.5bn but imagine if we could grow that further. We could see billions more generated at a time when we, and the country as a whole, most need it. Our emerging transport strategy will be our call to Government to help us unlock this untapped cash.

'The Government has referred to the Heartland area as a ‘global cluster’. Places such as Oxford, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Cambridge are some of the fastest growing towns and cities in the country, and yet strategic transport connections east to west across the Heartland are relatively poor. This really hampers our local economy and causes a mismatch of job availability and house prices.’

The Forum's emerging transport strategy will make the case for improving transport facilities along key 'corridors' between the area’s major urban centres. This will include the western and central sections of East-West rail, identifying the right solutions to improving transport east to west and access to designated Enterprise Zones like Westcott in Buckinghamshire and the Waterside in Northampton. Access to the area's airport at Luton and the nearby airports of Heathrow and Stansted, will also be central to the Forum's plans. The strategy will bring together existing plans, data and other studies from right across the Transport Forum area.

Cllr Smith added, 'The potential is huge. If we can secure a step change in our roads and our rail and bus services, we can reduce congestion, cut journey times and make transport easier for local people to use.

‘The bottom line is we can grow the area's economy and boost the prosperity levels for our 3.45 million local people and that’s got to be good news for everyone.’

The draft strategy will be considered by the Forum at its next meeting on October 14. The final strategy is expected to be submitted to Government by the end of the year.