16 December 2020

​February 2021 will be a major milestone for England's Economic Heartland when we publish the final version of the Transport Strategy.  But already our focus is on how we implement the Strategy and ensure that we secure the investment that our partners need to deliver on the ground.

We'll do this by building on the tremendous amount of work that's been completed in 2020. Our programme for the year ahead represents another change in gear for England's Economic Heartland and our partners, both locally and nationally.

As we work on implementing the Transport Strategy, our core themes for 2021 will be:

Decarbonisation

Responses to the draft Transport Strategy consultation demonstrated the strong appetite across the Heartland to be more ambitious than the legal requirement of net zero carbon by 2050.  In 2021 we will develop a detailed road map that will act as the driver for change for the way we plan, develop and deliver investment in our transport system, including the identification of indicative carbon budgets and targets.

Ubiquitous Digital Connectivity

As 2020 has shown us all, digital connectivity is an increasingly essential part of our strategic infrastructure. It has a key role in reducing the need to travel, providing individuals with access to services and giving businesses increased flexibility for the way they work.  Improved connectivity needs to be a fundamental component of our strategy to decarbonise our transport system.  In 2021 we will be working with the Satellite Applications Catapult and our partners to align investment in digital infrastructure with physical infrastructure so that as a region we can use smart systems to greatly improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance quality of life and the environment.

Developing the Investment Pipeline

Delivering growth in a way that enables us to meet our ambition on decarbonisation requires investment in infrastructure and services - it's why the Investment Pipeline is such an important part of our Transport Strategy.

In 2021 we will see the first two of our programme of connectivity studies getting underway.  The studies will be focused on the area between Oxford and Milton Keynes, and the corridor between Peterborough, Northampton and Oxford.

The first part of 2021 will see us publish Phase 2 of our Rail Passenger Study. Taken forward in collaboration with Network Rail, it will enable us to set out our priorities for investing in our rail system to better connect our major economic centres and support the recovery.

Complementing the strategic investments, 2021 will see us continue to work with our partners to make the case for investment in local connectivity with pilots centred on Marston Vale and Aylesbury initially. 

And we will continue to support our partners as they look to develop and then deliver strategic infrastructure proposals that are already identified as regional priorities.

Above all else, we need to ensure that the Investment Pipeline reflects the needs of the region and does so in a way that makes a compelling case for consideration in next year's Spending Review.

Freight and Logistics

This sector is vital to the region's economic success but it's the part of our transport system that has a large environmental footprint: reducing that footprint is a key focus for the Transport Strategy.  In 2021 we will develop even better insight on freight movements, develop our understanding of the potential of alternative fuels, and model the impact of construction works associated with projects such as HS2 and East West Rail, and support proposals that will encourage greater use of rail for freight.

Capacity and Capability

In order to improve the development and delivery of infrastructure proposals its important that we invest in the capacity and capability available to support those proposals.  In 2021 we will work with the DfT to trial a regional centre of excellence: one that will host specialist skills and knowledge upon which our partners are able to draw on as they develop their proposals to the point of delivery.  In this way we will improve the quality of proposals, reduce the risks to delivery and realise longer-term efficiency savings.

National Strategies and Programmes

We will use the Transport Strategy to ensure that as Highways England look to the future our region's priorities are reflected in their investment programme.  The output from our work with Network Rail will ensure the Heartland's requirements shape the move towards a concession-based business model for passenger services.  And we will work with the EEH Bus Operators Association to define a long-term future for mass transit in the region at a time when publication of the National Bus Strategy will increase the focus on this part of the transport system.

Collaboration at the heart of our approach

The Transport Strategy sets out a framework that is bold, ambitious as well as being deliverable.

Collaboration is at the heart of our approach and the continued support of our partners locally and nationally, across the public and private sectors, means we can look forward to 2021 confidently.

The Transport Strategy gives us the basis on which to move forward and ensure the region's transport system supports green economic recovery and growth, preserves and enhances our natural, historic and built environment, creates opportunities for residents no matter their individual circumstances, and, crucially, responds harder and faster to the climate change imperative.

To all of our partners, thank you – you make the difference: and we look forward to continuing the journey with you in 2021.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the EEH team!