2022 – strengthening our single voice for the East
Reflections from our Strategic Director, Andrew Summers
Like many, I took the opportunity to reflect on the last 12 months at Transport East over the festive period. It’s easy to get drawn in to the day-to-day working across a wide region and changing sector, missing the opportunity to mark achievements.
This calendar year has seen the Transport East partnership take several big steps forward, reinforcing our joint single voice for transport in the region. We’ve stayed focussed on achieving the social, economic and environmental ambitions of the East through better transport networks.
Firstly, we secured our longer-term future with an increased indicative three-year funding settlement from the Department for Transport (DfT). This has transformed the way we work – allowing us to tackle more complex issues and expand the team. It also shows how much Government values our partnership’s work.
We have doubled the size of our team with new talented members, including a Lead for our Rural Mobility Centre of Excellence and additional technical and communications support. Enhancing the capacity and capability for our partners.
This time last year we had just closed the consultation on our bold Transport Strategy and supporting Investment Programme. During 2022 we made amends to the Strategy following comments heard through the consultation, gained approval from our political Forum, launched it at our annual Summit and secured formal endorsement from all the local transport authorities. We are now working with the DfT to secure endorsement from the Secretary of State. This will put the region in a stronger position to secure more funding and policy outcomes that work for the East.
Increasing national influence
We’ve already been using the evidence in the Strategy to influence government and infrastructure bodies. We’ve built strong collaborative relationships with Network Rail, the new Great British Railways Transition Team and National Highways. Through these we’ve been able to influence strategic thinking and infrastructure planning.
On roads we’ve set up a regular meeting between our politicians and National Highways Chief Executive and shaped their thinking on route strategies informing the next road investment programme (RIS3).
For rail, we’ve undertaken the first phase of our new regional plan which will be published shortly. This looks at the current state of the rail network, showing gaps and opportunities. As part of this work, we’ve been engaging rail stakeholders across the region including a roundtable in parliament with the Chairs of the Great Eastern Main Line Taskforce, West Anglia Main Line Taskforce and East-West Rail eastern section Board.
To make sure our single voice is heard effectively we have been building our parliamentary presence. This year we’ve become transport advisers to the East of England All Party Parliamentary Group. We have taken the lead on several investigatory sessions highlighting to Ministers, MPs and Peers:
- the essential role the East plays in international trade
- the scale of investment needed in EV infrastructure to meet the growing EV vehicle demand, and
- drafting the transport chapter of their comprehensive report on how the East is performing on Levelling Up.
We’ve also been working closely with the APPG to advocate for overdue priorities including Ely and Haughley Junction rail upgrades.
We stepped up to chair the joint Sub-national Transport Bodies (STBs) meeting with the DfT and the communications group, increasing our national influence.
More impact through joint STB activity
In May we co-hosted the first joint STB conference. Ministers and senior leaders from across the transport sector shared the stage with all the STBs. Delegates left enthused about our work and with the strong impression we are leading on net zero transport connections. During a roundtable with the Minister, we made the clear case for investment and the transport needs of the East. This year it’s on Monday June 5, back in Birmingham – so save the date!
Since then, we’ve been working closely with our neighbouring STBs on specific projects through extra joint DfT funds. Working together gives better value for taxpayers money, allows us to do more than we can through our core funding and means we learn from places outside our region.
Many of these workstreams are almost finished, so keep an eye out over the next few weeks for more. New resources include:
- a regional assessment of EV charging infrastructure including maps and forecasts
- support for improving bus services
- strengthening the case for rural investment
- alternative fuels for freight
- a decarbonisation analysis toolkit
New regional transport model
We have collaborated with partners to develop our new model for people movement. This model allows us to assess future transport solutions, helping develop the next generation of strategic investment for the East. Unlike traditional transport models it also helps us understand the implications of new ways of moving, both for the transport network and for different types of people including of different income levels, sex, ages, and geographic locations.
We’ve tested EV take-up rates through the model. This showed huge decarbonisation benefits but also flagged the risk of rising congestion. We will be expanding the use of the model in 2023.
If you are interested the regional model, the EV assessment or any of the other workstreams, please contact Suzanne Buck, Technical Programme Lead.
So, 2023 is looking like another busy one. In the first half of the year, we’ll have the results of our rural transport survey out, along with the first phase of our rail plan looking at the current state of the network in the East. We’re developing the next phase of the rail plan alongside corridor connection studies to identify the next generation of transport priorities.
We plan to build our understanding of people’s travel behaviour, so planned schemes and new solutions have the best case for investment. We will also continue to champion the opportunities and needs of the East in Westminster, with regional partners.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has worked with Transport East this year. To strengthen our single voice for the East, we’ve had hundreds of meetings, workshops and discussions – all of which increase our shared understanding, expertise and influence. Particular thanks go to the Transport East Forum members for their support and guidance and our partner officer group whose expertise and commitment we rely so heavily on.
And lastly, huge thanks to the expanded Transport East team for their continued hard work on behalf of the region – Esme, Suzanne, Sharon, Rebecca, Dan, and Jo.