EEH Board Round Up- Friday 1 March

March 1st 2024

EEH Board round-up: Friday 1 March

MRT funding ‘falling through gaps’

Our Strategic Transport Leadership Board agreed to write to government highlighting issues around funding to progress mass transit schemes.

MRT schemes can have many benefits over more traditional ‘heavy rail’ solutions, including cost, delivery timescales and flexibility – boosting economic growth and lowering congestion and emissions.

At a time when funding pressures on local authorities are well known, our partners in places such as Milton Keynes, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are making a significant investment in developing early business cases for MRT-type schemes. However, there is currently no clear path to securing investment to further progress these schemes under the current national funding streams, as MRT systems do not attract roads or rail funding.

The letter states: “In effect, for our region, funding for MRT is ‘falling through the gaps’ making progressing these vital interventions extremely challenging…We would strongly support and encourage the Department to consider a dedicated funding stream to support MRT development.”

EEH bus work on ‘leading edge’

The Board was delighted to be joined by Stephen Fidler, the director for local transport at DfT, who outlined the Department’s approach to bus travel.

Mr Fidler recognised EEH’s work to improve bus journeys in the region, stating that it ‘seems to me to be pretty much at the at the leading edge’ and ‘adding a great deal of value’.

Board members outlined their views on the challenges and opportunities for improving bus services in the region, which Mr Fidler said had been ‘very much noted and incredibly helpful’: “I think there's an open offer from us to keep engaging with you if you're having future bus conversations.”

Project lead Trevor Brennan outlined the progress on delivering work to improve bus journeys in the region, understand different operational models and develop an investable proposition for mobility hubs, as part of the ‘statement of intent’ agreed at our Bus Symposium last year.

Board backs EEH

The Board agreed to continue member authorities’ financial support for England’s Economic Heartland – and instructed EEH to start developing a five-year work plan from 2025-2030.

Reflecting ongoing pressures on local authorities, the contribution has been frozen at last year’s levels. Managing director Naomi Green thanked the Board for its support, which she said enabled EEH to remain locally-led and to leverage further significant funding from the Department for Transport.

EEH Chair Cllr Liz Leffman said EEH has had a ‘particularly successful year’ while Cllr Anna Smith, Deputy Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, added: “Well done for all the work that's happening, and I suspect you're going to hear a lot of us saying things like the bus symposium were really, really helpful and very positive. It's good to see EEH becoming something that's a really key player in such an important area of the work we do.”

East West Rail door-to-door strategy

The Board heard from Will Gallagher, East West Railway Company’s chief strategy and development officer, who provided information on their door-to-door strategy.

The Board agreed that the next phase of work should be developed as a collaboration with local authorities, who must receive the appropriate funding to ensure the strategy’s ambitions can be delivered.