A unique partnership focused on boosting investment in the South East’s transport network has taken a step forward with the addition of major new partners.

Network Rail, Highways England and Transport for London have all agreed to join the board of Transport for the South East, working alongside civic and business leaders representing more than 7.5m people and 300,000 businesses to shape investment plans for the South East’s transport network.

Created in 2017, Transport for the South East is a sub-national transport body bringing together local authorities, business groups and the transport sector to speak with one voice on the region’s strategic transport priorities.

The addition of Highways England and Network Rail is designed to strengthen joint working with the infrastructure owners responsible for operating, maintaining and enhancing the region’s strategic road and rail links. Transport for the South East is already working closely with both organisation on future investment plans for the South East, which has some of the most congested roads and railways in the country.

The addition of Transport for London underlines the importance of the relationship between the capital and the South East region, not just in terms of transporting people and goods but also new housing and employment growth. Every day, more than 350,000 people commute between the Transport for the South East area and London by road and rail and forecasts predict that number to grow significantly in the years ahead.

This summer, Transport for the South East will publish a thirty-year transport strategy for the region which sets out how targeted transport investment can:

  • more than double the South East’s economy;
  • create an additional 500,000 jobs;
  • boost quality of life and access to opportunities for everyone; and
  • help cut the region’s carbon emissions to net-zero.

Discussions will take place with government about the devolved powers and responsibilities Transport for the South East needs to deliver the strategy before a strategic transport investment plan is published next year. This will provide government and other potential funders with a prioritised and costed programme of schemes, initiatives and policies to achieve Transport for the South East’s vision for the region.

John Halsall, managing director of Network Rail’s Southern region, said: “The devolution of Network Rail to regional businesses is all about putting passengers first. A big part of how we do that is to work much more closely and collaboratively with regional stakeholders, so I’m delighted to accept the invitation on behalf of Network Rail to join Transport for the South East’s partnership board.

“Rail is absolutely vital to the lives of millions of people and businesses across the South East and has a huge role to play in supporting sustainable economic growth. I look forward to working with partners from across local government, business and the transport industry to deliver a better, more integrated and more sustainable transport network for our region.”

David Stones, Network Planning Director, Highways England, said: “Highways England has been working closely with Transport for South East since their inception and are delighted to be invited to join their board. This reflects the strong connections we have been building over the last two years. We look forward to developing further our existing relationship as we plan for the transport needs of the future.”

Alex Williams, Director of City Planning at Transport for London, said: “Good transport in London and the South East supports jobs, homes and a thriving economy, connects communities, attracts business and plays a vital role in safeguarding the environment. Long-term certainty of funding is vital to ensure public transport in London and the South East does not roll back, but moves forward.

“As the capital’s strategic transport authority, we look forward to continuing our engagement with Transport for South East – through its existing Transport Forum and now formally at its Partnership Board – to support the case for sustained funding and better public transport for everyone.”

Cllr Keith Glazier, chair of Transport for the South East, said: “Transport for the South East has quickly emerged as a strong and effective partnership, bringing together leaders from the public and private sectors to speak with one voice on our region’s transport needs.

“We are already working closely with Network Rail, Highways England and Transport for London as we develop our transport strategy and investment priorities for the South East. It makes sense to formalise those relationships, adding considerable technical expertise and strategic insight to our partnership board.

“Bringing Transport for the South East and these key partners closer together will help make the case for investment in key strategic transport links while also working together to improve connectivity across the wider region and the UK.”

Transport for the South East’s Shadow Partnership Board comprises elected members from the region’s local transport authorities plus representatives of Local Economic Partnerships, protected landscapes and district and borough authorities.

The independent chair of TfSE’s Transport Forum also sits on the board. The Transport Forum brings together representatives from a broad range of organisations including transport users groups, rail and bus operators, ports and airports, environmental groups and more. It provides expert input and advice to the TfSE board.