Mayor Dave Hodgson, Chair of EEH's Strategic Transport Forum, provides England's Economic Heartland's response to the Spending Review and related announcements, which took place on November 25, 2020.
Confirmation of the funding to deliver the 'Bicester-Bletchley' section of East West Rail is pleasing - a reflection of the national significance of the project as set out in the National Infrastructure Strategy. However, we are still waiting on confirmation of the funding required to deliver the other parts of the 'Western Section' that will link Aylesbury and Milton Keynes and which will see East West Rail services introduced to the Bletchley to Bedford section. Delivery of the 'Western Section' in full is essential if the current levels of planned growth are to be delivered in a way that is sustainable.
A number of important projects in the Heartland were recognised in the Spending Review documentation, including funding to: improve local transport in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough; support for planned growth in Milton Keynes; deliver upgrades to the A428 and A47; and improve the St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction rail service.
We welcome the principle behind the Fund for England, which the Government says will 'move away from a fragmented landscape with multiple funding streams'. EEH has consistently made the case for cross-departmental infrastructure funding, with a focus on delivering outcomes, rather than funding for specific modes. This is why we believe Government should provide each region with an indicative funding allocation for strategic infrastructure. EEH's Transport Strategy provides an evidence-based pipeline for investment: one that supports sustainable economic growth whilst delivering on the need to decarbonise our transport system. Our approach, which is focused on the needs of the user, also helps 'level-up' by addressing the inequalities which exist in our region which are often exacerbated by poor connectivity.
Our Transport Strategy highlights the importance of identifying investment priorities on the basis of not just their value for money, but also their contribution towards social and environmental goals. Changes to the appraisal system announced by the Government are welcomed. Investment in infrastructure which demonstrates high economic return will remain crucial to the UK's economic recovery and growth. The continued economic success of the Heartland remains important for the country. As a net contributor to the economy and a national economic priority for Government we need to secure the investment in infrastructure that is essential to deliver sustainable economic growth.