The Government must 'seize the moment' at the upcoming Budget and demonstrate its commitment the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge growth corridor with hard cash for infrastructure, according to England's Economic Heartland.
Mayor Dave Hodgson, chair of EEH's Strategic Transport Forum, said the region was at a pivotal moment in its history and the Budget is seen as a litmus test for Government's commitment to invest in the transport schemes required to support growth in the corridor.
He said: "We are now one year on from the National Infrastructure Commission's report, which highlighted the critical importance of the corridor to the long term success of the UK economy. Government welcomed the report - but we now need to see words backed up by hard cash and a commitment to deliver the transport schemes which are fundamental to supporting that growth.
"The continued delay in the delivery of the much-needed A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet scheme has given us cause for concern about whether rhetoric will be turned into reality. It is essential that both local communities and potential investors have confidence that schemes will be delivered when Government says they will be."
In July England's Economic Heartland submitted two proposals for 'early entry' into the Major Road Network investment programme. These are to improve capacity on the A414 between Hatfield to Watford and the dualling of the Eastern Link Road between the A418 and A41 in Aylesbury.
Mayor Dave said: "Both these proposals would support planned growth in the corridor and are ready to be delivered. The first five schemes receiving MRN funding were announced recently - we were pleased for our colleagues at Transport for the North and Midlands Connect, whose schemes were awarded funding. The Budget presents the next opportunity for Government to show a similar level of commitment to what it has agreed is a national priority – I would urge it to seize the moment.
"No-one is more ambitious for the region than the political leadership which forms England's Economic Heartland. We need Government to match that ambition by committing additional investment to support the Heartland and realise our economic potential."
Ahead of the Budget, England's Economic Heartland has produced 'five asks' of Government aimed at accelerating delivery of strategic infrastructure in the region.
Government is asked to:
- Commit to developing a geographically-specific National Policy Statement for strategic infrastructure in the Heartland
- Establish a 'major scheme development fund' to support local authorities develop business cases for the investment pipeline
- Provide an 'indicative funding envelope' to be used in the prioritisation of investment proposals
- Joint commissioning with Government of strategic studies to accelerate delivery of strategic infrastructure
- Make commitments to deliver six strategic infrastructure priorities for the Heartland.
It has also written to Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick MP, proposing a ministerial 'taskforce' to develop a 'grand bargain' for the growth corridor, which could subsequently inform the 2019 Spending Review.
Notes to editors
England's Economic Heartland works with Government and the private sector to ensure the right investment in strategic infrastructure, in the right places and at the right time.
The National Infrastructure Commission believes the region's economy could double or even triple with the right investment, and the Government has made realising this potential a national priority.
There are 11 local transport authorities that make up England's Economic Heartland, stretching from Swindon to Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire to Hertfordshire. It has a total population of over 5.1 million and GVA of £150bn.
England's Economic Heartland's Strategic Transport Forum is an emerging Sub-national Transport Body.