Looking back at 2023 – Andrew Summers
It’s safe to say 2023 was another busy year for Transport East. During the festive break, I reflected on the huge amount Transport East achieved during the year and I’m incredibly proud of the value we are bringing to the region – and nationally – as the East’s sub-national transport body. And also proud of our fantastic team of eight plus our regional partners that have undertaken all this work.
Our biggest achievement was securing recognition for our Transport Strategy by the Department for Transport. This major milestone means the Government will need to consider our strategy when they’re developing transport polices and investment for the region, ensuring they’re in line with our four priorities.
With the endorsement it’s important we continue advocating for the East, outlining its economic contributions through our international links, rapidly growing towns and cities, productive rural areas and energy generating coast. Find out more below or view our highlights of the year video at the end of this page.
Bringing the region together as a single voice
We’ve continued raising our profile and priorities at national and regional events, such as the STB Conference and East of England’s Net Zero Conference, and have met ministers, parliamentarians, councillors, business and transport groups to understand their current views on transport and how our partnerships can collaborate more effectively for outcomes.
As a partnership, we speak with the single voice on transport needs for the region and I’m immensely proud that our work to advocate for the region’s major transport priorities is bearing fruit, with significant funding commitments coming from government this year.
On rail we’ve worked closely with our neighbour STB England’s Economic Heartland (EEH), the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, and many other partners across the East and the UK to promote the essential upgrades of Ely and Haughley junctions. Our Keeping Trade on Track report with EEH demonstrated strong case and support for the schemes. Huge economic benefits can be unlocked along with reducing the region’s carbon emissions. We presented our report to ministers who clearly saw the merits and I am delighted that a funding commitment to finally deliver these upgrades was announced in September. We will continue to work with partners to keep the pressure on to maintain momentum.
While the Ely and Haughley announcement was very welcome, we know there are many challenges that need addressing in our region’s rail. We presented our ‘State of Rail’ report to stakeholders at a parliamentary reception, including the Minister for Rail, highlighting the key challenges for the East’s rail network for both people and goods. Investing in rail will reduce congestion and play a key part in reducing the region’s transport carbon emissions.
We also stressed to Ministers the need to increase the levels of investment in the region’s roads. During an APPG event in the Houses of Parliament, we demonstrated the importance of the East’s roads and how future investment in planned schemes is pivotal to enable goods and people to remain connected through private and public transport. Following our briefing we welcomed the news of funding commitments to improve roads across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex and will continue to use our single voice to accelerate their delivery.
Assisting partners by providing tools, evidence and recommendations
A core role is to help our partners to develop and deliver transport strategies and plans. We are building our evidence to generate better decisions at all levels. Last year we provided resources through our Rural Mobility Centre of Excellence, Electric Vehicle (EV) demand tool and new regional people movement model BERTIE (BEhaviouR & Transport: Impact & Equity).
With a third of our residents living in a rural area, we understand the challenges millions of people across the country face to access the services they need, which is why we’ve created the Rural Mobility Centre of Excellence, along with being the English STB lead for rural mobility.
We’ve supported other STBs and Local Authorities to understand the challenges and opportunities in rural mobility and have advocated the importance of rural inclusivity in transport policies and strategies. We’ve already seen positive results, with the DfT pledging to work with us on innovative transport opportunities and funding pots focused more directly on rural transport innovation.
We were delighted to share our regional EV study – developed in partnership with EEH – which provides our 29 local authorities and other partners with mapped insight on the forecast demand for publicly available EV charging infrastructure. These tools and reports demonstrate regional gaps and projected levels of ownership until 2040, with recommendations on how to accelerate the number of public EV chargers. Local authorities are now using this tool to plan EV charging infrastructure and the tool received national recognition being shortlisted in this year’s CiTTi awards.
We also introduced BERTIE, our innovative people movement model. This powerful modelling tool provides valuable data across multiple transport modes which will help us to answer questions, test future interventions, and generate insights that reflect the real-life choices people make about how they travel.
This will help the region make better decisions and will play an important part in our forthcoming connectivity studies, where we will combine data to further understand how people are moving across our region, and help our partners create business cases for the next generation of transport schemes required in the East.
With these tools and growing recognition of Transport East’s contributions and value, I’m looking forward to what will certainly be another productive year!
Our partnership will face a range of challenges in 2024, including an increasingly challenging public sector financial environment and using our single voice to make the best possible case for transport investment in the region through a general election and spending review. COP28 reinforced the need to stay laser-focused on our strategic priorities, including driving down carbon emissions from transport, and our partners will be developing the next generation of Local Transport Plans. Working in collaboration through Transport East will be more important than ever to deliver the region’s outcomes.
As part of our regional strategy hub, we’ll soon be launching a Rural Mobility report in Parliament following a call for evidence and excellent engagement sessions with businesses, local authorities and local groups. Through the report’s recommendations, we can ensure investment and resource across local and national government is prioritised to generate the best outcomes for these communities.
As follow up on our State of Rail work, we’ll be publishing a report into short-term priorities for the rail network for quicker delivery by government and Network Rail, and undertaking a regional travel behaviour survey to get a deep understanding of why people make their travel choices, informing our partners Local Transport Plans.
This work comes together in one of our biggest projects to date. Our Connectivity Studies will build a much-needed picture of how and where people are making journeys between major centres within our region and between neighbouring ones. The information this provides will help us identify priority areas for improvements, gaps in the existing network, evidencing the economic case for transport investment in the East and providing insight for partners when they develop their own bids, businesses cases and transport initiatives.
And of course, we will continue to promote the opportunities and needs of the East in Westminster along with our regional partners, through our established role as strategic transport advisors to the East of England All Party Parliamentary Group.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has supported Transport East this year. We’ve strengthened our single voice, added value to our partners and expanded our knowledge and understanding. 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, a huge thank you to the Transport East team for their continued hard work on behalf of the region – Esme, Suzanne, Rebecca, Sharon, Dan, Jo and Ash.
We look forward to working with you to make travel in the East better in 2024.