Published: 11:02, 10 October 2019
| Updated: 11:04, 10 October 2019
An ambitious plan to more than double the south east’s economy by 2050, create half a million new jobs, reduce congestion, cut carbon emissions and boost air quality has been unveiled.
It includes plans to speed up rail journey times to London by using spare capacity on High Speed 1, extending Crossrail to Ebbsfleet, delivery of the Lower Thames Crossing and improving rail and road links to deprived communities - particularly in Kent's coastal areas.
It also wants to see the "prioritising of the needs of cyclists and pedestrians over the private car in urban areas" as well as improving road and rail links to support port expansion
The draft transport strategy for the region has been produced by Transport for the South East (TfSE), a partnership of local authorities, business groups and transport bodies formed to help shape the region’s transport priorities.
The strategy says with the right investment in the region’s transport network our economy will more than double over the next 30 years – from £183billionn to between £450bn and £500bn per year – creating an additional 500,000 jobs and helping cut carbon emissions to net-zero.
The strategy sets out a 30-year framework to guide decisions about where, when and how money is invested in the south east’s transport network, along with a range of policy changes and other initiatives to make sustainable travel easier and more attractive to people and businesses.
These include arguing for a real-terms freeze on rail fares, cheaper off-peak fares and extra funding to protect and enhance rural bus services.
Reducing the region’s reliance on private cars – which account for 70% of all journeys compared to just 4% by rail and 5% by bus – is outlined as "vitally important" as the strategy is clear that catering for forecast road traffic growth in the south east is no longer sustainable in the long term.
Now we are getting our chance to have a say on the proposals.
Among a host of public events across the region will be one in Kent - at Canterbury Christ Church University on Tuesday, October 22.
For the next 12 weeks, people and organisations across the region will be give feedback on the draft transport strategy online.
Transport minister George Freeman MP said: “Improving the UK’s transport network is a priority for the government. The Prime Minister has created this new role of Minister of State for the Future of Transport to turbo UK leadership in tackling disconnection, encouraging decarbonisation and promoting digitalisation which is key to unlocking economic growth, boosting employment and improving air quality.
“Right across the country, we are considering innovative new ways to connect passengers, freight and businesses both within the UK and abroad through a truly integrated transport network.
“I welcome TfSE’s 30-year vision for transport in the south east.”
Margaret Paren, TfSE board member representing south east protected landscapes, which includes the Kent Downs, said: “The south east is home to some of our nation’s most important and under-pressure protected landscapes. We welcome the transport strategy for the south east’s ambitions for environmental sustainability and greater and more accessible public transport. We urge people to feed into this important consultation.”
The draft transport strategy identifies priorities for future investment by looking at the challenges people and businesses will face in moving around the region and the opportunities these present to support future sustainable economic growth.
These include a range of specific schemes as well as wider policies and initiatives.
For example, the strategy argues for greater use of new and emerging technology such as connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) to boost connectivity.
It makes the case for policy changes to enable more joined up planning, particularly between transport and housing, to help reduce the need to travel and build more sustainable communities. And the strategy also recognises that tough decisions will need to be made about how, not if, we manage demand on the busiest parts of our transport networks.
The deadline for consultation responses is Friday, January 10 2020.
After that, a final version of the transport strategy will be put to Transport for the South East’s board in spring 2020. A strategic investment plan is planned for publication in 2021, providing a prioritised, costed and deliverable list of schemes, initiatives and policies to start turning the vision into reality.