Influencing Strategic Transport in the South East

A study has revealed that transport projects could produce further major boosts of up to £20 billion to the South East economy, already one of the highest performing in the country.

Coast to Capital, Enterprise M3, Solent and Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), with partner local authorities, commissioned an assessment of the potential economic benefits of investment in various strategic transport corridors.

The focus of the study was on the wider economic impacts of the strategic corridors and specifically how these can help boost connectivity and productivity in the region. These corridors address the lack of orbital connectivity around London and the need to link better to ports and airports.

The methodology used in the study was based on current Government guidance and was shared with the Department for Transport as part of the commission.

There is a fast-developing ‘hi-tech’ sector within the area characterised by high levels of productivity. This is forecast to increase considerably in the future and enhanced transport connectivity will be essential to unlocking its potential. The region’s transport networks are already operating at or near capacity, as evidenced by the regular reports of delay and congestion. Future growth will be choked off without further investment.

The study concludes that improved connectivity will facilitate continued economic expansion in the South East. This will be achieved via increased productivity, improved access for workers to labour markets and similarly providing businesses with improved access to a larger pool of qualified workers.

All of the major corridors see high levels of journeys being made and therefore if connectivity is improved, productivity will be also enhanced. Based on the strategic corridor analysis, the results provide a powerful indicator of the economic benefits that could be generated.

The report estimates that the benefit to the economy would exceed £19.5 billion per annum, with more than 100,000 additional jobs created. This additional economic activity would see the Government gain additional revenue of £1.2 billion a year from personal income taxation and just under £1 billion a year from corporation taxation. Conversely a failure to invest in congested transport links could seriously hamper economic growth.

The 4 LEPs who commissioned the study are taking this message to Government, highlighting the evidence that demonstrates that the geographical area covered by the four LEPs involved in this study is of significant national economic importance as a large proportion of national wealth is generated here.

This study provides evidence that Government investment in this part of the country will produce a greater return than elsewhere, with the consequent benefits to the wider economy. The Government needs to commit to spending on infrastructure in the South East and the proposed sub-national transport bodies are a mechanism that could be used to progress these types of schemes that will transcend LEP and local authority boundaries.

If we do nothing, the very high levels of usage of the area’s transport system will cause increasing delay and disruption, acting as a block to economic growth.

Although improving several of these corridors will be major undertakings, requiring significant planning, construction works and expenditure, they will be a huge benefit, not just to the local economy, but nationally.

At a time when there is much talk about the devolution of funding to local areas and combined authorities, this study provides evidence that investment in connectivity would bring substantial economic benefit.

The work doesn’t make detailed proposals for schemes; instead it calculates the size of the prize should schemes be brought forward. We are making all the work available to our infrastructure partners, such as Highways England, Network Rail and local highways authorities and strongly encouraging them to work with their local LEPs, use the evidence and develop the actual schemes that could secure economic growth for the whole country.