How was the connectivity studies programme developed?
EEH’s programme of connectivity studies was developed iteratively alongside development of our Transport Strategy. Taking into account evidence gathered through the Outline Transport Strategy consultation (2019), as well as evidence provided by partners, a long list of corridors were independently assessed against the principles of the Draft Transport Strategy. Fourteen indicators were used in the corridor assessments as well as utilising outputs from the Integrated Sustainability Appraisal Corridor Report.
During the technical assessment phase, the proposed corridors were also sequenced. Timescales of Local Plan development build out rates helped inform an initial sequencing. Additional consideration was also given to existing or upcoming studies being taken forward by other organisations. This helps ensure the timing of the studies fit with other programmes of work across the Heartland region.
Using the outputs of the assessment, the proposed programme of studies was reviewed and agreed by the EEH Strategic Transport Forum. The agreed programme of studies is set out in the regional Transport Strategy.
How are you engaging with people on the studies?
A public call for evidence was held throughout June 2021 for the first two studies: Oxford-Milton Keynes; and Peterborough-Northampton-Oxford. The call for evidence was open to residents and organisations to tell us what they think are the most important issues and opportunities along each corridor. The information will be used to shape the development of the connectivity studies, and ultimately, its recommendations.
What will happen to my response to the call for evidence?
Your responses will be used by the project team and steering group as part of the evidence base for the studies. The information and evidence collated will help inform baseline information, the creation of a Multi-Criteria Appraisal Framework and the long list of potential interventions. A summary of the key themes identified through the call for evidence will be published alongside the final study document.
What types of interventions will the connectivity studies consider?
The studies will consider the broadest range of options for improving connectivity in order to cut emissions and support economic growth, as set out in our transport strategy. This will include consideration of digital connectivity and future mobility.
Will there be a final report?
Yes. Our Strategic Transport Forum of elected members will be presented with a draft report. Subject to their comments/ approval, a final report will be published.
What will happen to the connectivity studies’ recommendations?
The interventions will be presented as a package of measures required to improve connectivity along their respective corridors. Subject to the approval of our Strategic Transport Forum of elected members, the package will be fed into England’s Economic Heartland’s investment pipeline for the region, which advises government on regional priorities. Subject to funding, it is likely strategic outline business cases will be developed.
Who is involved in the development of the studies?
Following a competitive tendering exercise, a consortium of Steer, WSP and Fifth Studio has been appointed to carry out our first two connectivity studies. The established steering group will provide study governance, checking and challenging each phase of the study and ensuring they progress in the right direction. The steering group is composed of representatives of the partner transport and planning authorities across the corridor areas as well as representatives of local enterprise partnerships.
There will also be a stakeholder group engaged on matters such as corridor connectivity issues, opportunities and options. It will be composed of representatives of government departments, network managers, transport operators, transport users, road users, non-motorised users, statutory environment bodies and utility groups.
How are environmental considerations being factored into the connectivity studies?
The region’s transport strategy has the need to get to net zero carbon emissions at its heart. In addition to decarbonisation, the transport strategy has preservation of the built and natural environment embedded throughout its approach. The connectivity studies’ multi-criteria appraisal framework (MCAF) is built on the principles of EEH’s transport strategy, meaning each stage of the connectivity studies process will consider how connectivity in the region can be delivered while abiding by our environmental priorities.
The development of the transport strategy was supported and informed by an integrated sustainability appraisal (ISA). Included in this was consideration of the proposed connectivity study programme.
Will you take on board other work/ studies in the region?
Yes. The study team will be conducting a review of relevant past and current studies so that it can inform and align with the connectivity studies, providing a common base from which to develop the package of interventions.
Is the Oxford-Milton Keynes study a reincarnation of the Oxford-Milton Keynes Expressway?
The Government has scrapped the Oxford – Milton Keynes Expressway. However there remains a need to invest in our existing road network if we are to enable new housing and economic growth to be delivered. Our evidence base, which underpins the regional transport strategy, identifies the strategic importance of improving connectivity between Milton Keynes and Oxford. This study is being taken forward in collaboration with local partners to agree what improvements are needed moving forward. In this we will build on the investment being made in East West Rail and in improved digital connectivity.
How does this work relate to the work on the Oxford-Cambridge Arc?
There is a need to identify what’s required in order to improve connectivity in support of what is already set out in Local Plans. In doing so, the study will also be looking at how we meet the longer-term ambition for our transport system. All of the work undertaken by EEH is being fed into the Government-led initiative for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.