A sustainable route to growth for the South East

Transport Knowledge Hub logo Published on: 15th November 2019 by Rupert Clubb.

We have much to feel good about here in the South East.

Our economy is the UK’s second biggest behind London. Our three million workers are among the most productive in the country. Our ports, airports and high-speed railway provide fast and efficient links with mainland Europe and the rest of the world. Our thriving research institutions include national and world-leading universities. Our beautiful countryside, coastline, historic towns and dynamic cities attract millions of visitors a year.

But we face a real challenge. Despite these enviable foundations – and in some cases because of them – our transport infrastructure is operating beyond capacity and can’t sustain ongoing growth. In many areas investment in our roads and railways hasn’t kept pace and new housing provision is being hampered by the lack of adequate transport infrastructure.

Our transport strategy, now published in draft for consultation, sets out to tackle this challenge and to ensure that our region’s success story continues.

At the heart of our draft transport strategy is a simple question: What kind of place do we want the South East to be thirty years from now? The answer provides the basis of our vision for 2050 and the strategic goals and priorities which will guide investment decisions over the next three decades.

We started by modelling how and where the South East’s transport network will come under strain in future. But instead of taking the traditional approach – looking to expand the network in the areas of most severe stress and strain – our strategy sets out how this congestion could be lessened while still supporting economic growth.

If we get this right, the prize is huge. Our strategy has identified that with the right investment in our transport network we can grow the number of jobs in our region from 3.3 million today to 4.2 million and more than double our economy from today’s £183 billion to between £450 and £500 billion Gross Value Added a year. This is almost 500,000 more jobs and at least £50 billion more per year than without investing in the opportunities we’ve identified.

We will do this in a way that is good for people, good for business and good for the planet, because our strategy is clear that balancing economic, social and environmental priorities is the only way to achieve truly sustainable growth.

Growth that helps our businesses prosper and compete better in the global marketplace. Growth that improves the quality of life and access to opportunities of our 7.5m residents. Growth that protects and enhances our region’s unique natural and historic environment.

This is a thirty-year strategy. The changes we want to see will not all happen overnight and in some instances there are big policy challenges and other hurdles which stand in our way. But we’re confident in the ability of our partnership to make the case for doing things differently.

Our final transport strategy, published in spring 2020, will provide the key piece of evidence in persuading the government to make Transport for the South East a statutory sub-national transport body – demonstrating how we can make a real difference, transforming the lives of the travelling public, enabling the innovation that businesses need and delivering sustainable economic growth across the region.

We want you to have your say. The closing date for consultation responses is Friday, 10 January 2020. Take part at tfse.org.uk/transport-strategy.

About the Author

This post was written by Rupert Clubb. Lead officer at Transport for the South East and Director of Communities, Economy and Transport at East Sussex County Council