14 July 2020

A bold new strategy enabling the region's transport system to underpin a green recovery from COVID-19 and support sustainable economic growth has been launched today (July 14) for consultation.

The Draft Transport Strategy has been produced by England's Economic Heartland, the Sub-national Transport Body covering Swindon across to Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire down to Hertfordshire.

A global hub for science and technology businesses, the Heartland is a net contributor to the Treasury and a vital asset for the UK during its recovery from the pandemic and in the decades which follow.

The Transport Strategy provides the opportunity to do things differently in order for the region to realise its potential.  Carbon emissions from transport in the region are higher and growing faster than the national average, and there is currently often little alternative to the car, particularly for the Heartland's significant rural population. Congestion and delays on the road and rail networks are common, impacting the environment, quality of life and business productivity.

The strategy sets out how the transport system will support sustainable economic growth while reaching net zero carbon emissions no later than 2050, including measures to:

•        Work with the area's world-leading innovators to trial and deploy cleaner and smarter connectivity across the region

•        Champion investment in better digital connectivity to increase people's ability to work from home, reducing the need to travel

•        Maximise the potential of East West Rail and use it as the catalyst for transforming public transport across the region

•        Enhance walking and cycling infrastructure and 'shared transport' to improve local connectivity

•        Ensure the region's freight and logistics needs continue to be met, while lowering their environmental impact

The strategy includes an investment pipeline of the strategic transport infrastructure required for the region to meet its ambitions. And it contains details of connectivity studies which will be taken forward by EEH working with its partners, through which future investment requirements will be identified.

Mayor Dave Hodgson, chair of England's Economic Heartland's Strategic Transport Forum, said: "From the trialling of autonomous vehicles through to the use of delivery robots, our region is at the global forefront of developing the future of mobility with cleaner, smarter technologies. Our strategy seeks to harness this world-leading innovation to be the foundation for a green recovery from the current crisis, and use this as the springboard for sustainable long-term economic growth.

 "The COVID-19 pandemic has shown there is considerable scope to increase our use of flexible and remote working, to challenge received wisdom when it comes to the future of our transport system and to do things differently. We have the opportunity to embed new behaviours when it comes to our travel choices, to bring individual transport networks together to form a transport system that offers choice, flexibility and reliability to the user. 

"Our analysis has shown that to get to where we need to be, we cannot rely alone on national interventions such as the ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2035, as welcome as they are. That's why our strategy goes further. It is bold in its ambition for our transport system over the next 30 years, harnessing the power of improved connectivity as a launch pad for increasing opportunities for our residents and businesses, while protecting and enhancing our region's special environment."

England's Economic Heartland is also seeking views on plans to become a statutory body, increasing its ability to influence the national agenda and deliver the Transport Strategy.

The Transport Strategy documents and consultation survey are available on the England's Economic Heartland website. The consultation runs until midnight on October 6.