The ability to set investment plans for the South East’s roads and railways, reduce emissions, improve air quality and make travelling simpler and easier are among a range of new powers that the South East’s regional transport body is seeking to transform travel, boost the economy and protect the environment.

The powers and responsibilities are part of a draft proposal to government from Transport for the South East (TfSE) which makes the case for statutory status as a sub-national transport body.

TfSE was established in 2017 as a partnership bringing together local authorities, business groups and other stakeholders including Network Rail and Highways England to speak with one voice on the region’s transport needs. Achieving statutory status would allow TfSE to directly influence government decision-making on transport issues on behalf of the South East’s people and businesses and give it the tools to deliver major improvements to our region’s transport network.

The powers and responsibilities included in the proposal are designed to help relieve congestion and improve journeys on our roads and railways, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle poor air quality in our towns and cities, better connect our ports and airports, improve transport links for deprived communities and make planning and paying for travel simpler and easier for everyone. They would be used only with the agreement of TfSE’s local authority partners.

A 12-week consultation period on the draft proposal is now underway, giving people and businesses in the South East and neighbouring regions the opportunity to have their say.

Cllr Keith Glazier, chair of Transport for the South East, said:

“The South East contributes more to the UK economy than any region outside London and is our country’s major international gateway for people and goods. When the South East prospers, the whole country prospers.

“A regional transport body that can directly influence how and where money is spent, with the power to deliver real improvements for people and businesses, is absolutely vital if we’re to continue growing our economy, supporting new housing, improving quality of life and protecting our precious environment.”

Proposed powers and responsibilities include:

  • Rail: Greater influence over rail investment and franchise arrangements
  • Roads: Setting the Roads Investment Strategy for the region (jointly with the transport secretary) and various powers to enable the construction of road improvements schemes
  • Buses: Various duties and powers to improve bus services for passenger and provide improved alternatives to car travel
  • Smart ticketing: Powers to enable the delivery of a region-wide integrated smart ticketing scheme
  • Air quality: The power to implement road charging schemes linked to Clean Air Zones to improve quality of life for people in the South East

Consultation documents including the questionnaire can be downloaded from the TfSE website: https://transportforthesoutheast.org.uk/about/becoming-a-statutory-body/

Next steps
The draft proposal to government has been developed in conjunction with member authorities and agreed by TfSE’s shadow partnership board, which comprises representatives from local transport authorities, local enterprise partnerships and protected landscapes.

The consultation closes on 31 July 2019. Pending approval from the TfSE board in September, the intention is to submit the final proposal to government by the end of 2019.