Transport for the South East (TfSE) is preparing to launch as the overarching transport body representing those in the South East but outside London.
The new body, which will cover Berkshire and Hampshire to Kent, will work with local authorities, stakeholders and businesses to develop an integrated transport strategy for the area.
Speaking to New Civil Engineer TfSE chair Geoff French said the new body would “deal with the gap between national infrastructure and very local infrastructure”, as there was very little funding available for the “middle ground”.
“What we want to be doing is making a solid case based on economic development for intermediate schemes,” said French. “Not High Speed 4 or massive new motorways, but addressing and tying together transport projects which go across more than one authority.”
French said having bodies co-ordinating that kind of work will help big funding agencies prioritise investment in the regions.
“The advantage to agencies like Network Rail, Highways England and the Department for Transport (DfT) is the ability to look at the different areas as a whole and identify which schemes would have the most beneficial impact, and then back those.”
The south east region is home to a number significant economic hubs including Southampton and Newhaven ports and Gatwick and Southampton airports. Heathrow Airport is a “stones throw” away from its border too, noted French.
French said the body had already set up a transport forum where the operators and the users of trains, buses, roads, airports and seaports can come together with Local Enterprise Partnerships to express views. It has also started an economic study of the area to find projects to bring forward which were related to economic growth in the area.
As an example of current level of disconnect, and what he hoped the body would solve, he said driving around the M25, the only signposted railway station was Ebbsfleet International.
French said one of the things he was must keen to rebut was the widely held view that London and the south east already received the lions’ share of funding.
“One of the things we feel quite strongly about is that London and the south east is getting all the money,” he said. “Yes London is getting a lot of money, but if you look at the expenditure per head, then there’s almost the same amount of money going to the north as there is in the south east.
“It’s actually really just London that is getting the lion’s share.”
The body is hoping to get statutory status – giving it the ability to formally speak as one voice for the area and work with the Department of Transport to dole out funding – by 2020. Transport for the North is currently applying for statutory status with confirmation expected in April this year.
French said although the timescale might seem far off, transport secretary Chris Grayling had already given positive indications that he was willing to accept views of the body before a formal status was awarded.
TfSE will be formally launching in Farnborough on 8 May.