A wide-ranging debate on the future of transport in and around the Oxford to Cambridge Arc has been launched by England's Economic Heartland (EEH), as it unveiled its Outline Transport Strategy: Framework for Engagement at its annual conference in Hertfordshire yesterday (July 16).
The Sub-national Transport Body will now engage with a wide variety of people and organisations about how the transport system can help achieve transformational economic growth, while also securing environmental 'net gain' and improving residents' quality of life.
These discussions will play a crucial role in the development of EEH's overarching Transport Strategy for the region, which stretches from Swindon across to Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire down to Hertfordshire. Due for formal consultation in the first half of 2020, it will set out the region's infrastructure needs to both Government and the private sector.
Mayor Dave Hodgson, chair of EEH's Strategic Transport Forum – which includes elected leaders and cabinet members from authorities across the region - said: "The Heartland is one of the most exciting economic opportunities in Europe - an internationally renowned hub for science, technology and research. But economic growth has already brought with it increased pressure on our transport infrastructure, resulting in disruption, unreliability and pollution.
"Future growth must go hand-in-hand with environmental improvements, and investment in the transport system is crucial to achieving this. The way forward cannot be 'business as usual' – we must harness the region's reputation for innovation in order to do things differently.
"The challenges and opportunities facing us are unique and complex. That's why we want to have a conversation with people and businesses focused around what they believe the transport system needs to deliver in the future. The Outline Transport Strategy is a significant milestone, providing us with the framework for that discussion. I'd encourage anyone with an interest in the region's future to have their say and help shape the detail of our future transport system."
In a video message to delegates, Michael Ellis MP, Minister of State for Transport, praised the commitment of EEH's partners to working 'collaboratively on issues of genuine regional significance'.
He said: "We recognise the value of the work currently being done on the region's transport strategy, to prioritise the projects needed most to support economic prosperity. This is why we have prioritised funding to support the delivery of the strategy, so that EEH can continue to progress and build upon the good work that has already been achieved to date."
He encouraged people to have their say, adding: "Together, we can ensure that residents and businesses realise their potentials."
The conference, which was held at the University of Hertfordshire, also saw the launch of:
- The Vision 2050 'competition' which encourages a fresh perspective from students, post graduates and professionals at an earlier stage of their career on what the region's transport system needs to look like by 2050.
- The publication of EEH's major study into the needs of the freight and logistics sector in the region. The study will be a major input into the overarching Transport Strategy.
- The Sustainable Transport for Counties initiative by the University of Hertfordshire's Smart Mobility Research Unit. In partnership with EEH, this project seeks to increase understanding of the mobility needs of towns typically found in shire counties – many of which can be found in the Heartland.
For more information and details of how to get involved, log onto EEH's website (www.englandseconomicheartland.com). The period of engagement lasts until the end of October.