Transport Futures For The South-East: More Road-Building?
Last October, Transport for the South East (TfSE), a forum combining leading local government councillors across southern counties from Hampshire to Kent, with senior representatives of Network Rail and Highways England, unveiled a draft document for consultation –‘Strategy for the South-East’. Its aim: to plan transport in the region for the next 30 years. Its stated vision: that “by 2050, the South East of England will be a leading global region for net-zero carbon, sustainable economic growth where integrated transport, digital and energy networks have delivered a stepchange in connectivity and environmental quality”.
In his preface to the document, Chair Keith Glazier – see adjacent columns – claimed that, since its formation in 2017, TfSE “has emerged as a powerful and effective partnership for our region…
“We have successfully influenced how, where and when government money is spent on our major roads, railways and other transport infrastructure.”
Cllr Glazier went on to identify “the big issues” for the future as improving air quality; investing in better public transport; supporting the switch to green vehicles; encouraging active travel [buzz-phrase for walking and cycling]; and more sustainable employment and housing growth.
But the indications in the early months of this year are that TfSE in general, and Cllr Glazier in particular, are embarking on their 30-year plan with the major emphasis on economic benefits of conventional road building rather than recognising any environmental or social limitations or the government’s climate change policies and zero net CO2 emissions target.
Dualling the A21
On 10th February, he convened a meeting in the Palace of Westminster of the A21 Reference Group (also including local MPs Sally-Ann Hart and Huw Merriman plus Hastings Borough councillor Andy Batsford and Rother District councillor Kathryn Field). The announced object of the meeting was to “step up the campaign” to see the A21 road “dualled all the way to the south coast”.
When on the following day (11th February) Boris Johnson announced a £5bn national investment in bus and cycle transport to accompany the decision to proceed with the HS2 rail project, the reaction of Cllr Glazier was to issue a statement reminding central government that the South East “is our country’s main international gateway for people and goods”. He cited three major international airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Southampton), seven major ports (Dover, London, Medway, Newhaven, Shoreham, Portsmouth and Southampton) and the HS1 rail service, as well as a network of motorways and trunk roads.
Catering for future growth
Last week Cllr Glazier developed his theme further, issuing a trumpet call to the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of his budget. The South-East region was, the TfSE Chair declared, a “powerful motor for national prosperity, adding more than £200 billion to the UK economy – more than any region outside the capital.” But its transport network is “operating beyond capacity and can’t sustain ongoing growth. Roads are congested and rail travel is often unreliable. Urgent investment is needed to meet existing demands and cater for future growth and to help unlock new housing, attract inward investment and support deprived communities.”
Improving air quality? Public transport? Active travel? Not mentioned in Cllr Glazier’s rhetoric, apart from an unfocussed reference to reducing carbon emissions – nor figuring, it would seem, in his recent track record.
Over the past five years, public funding for transport initiatives of any size in East Sussex, Kent and Essex has been channelled through SELEP (the South East Local Enterprise Partnership). Having been armed with a Local Growth Fund investment from central government of £1.2 bn (£200m a year from 2015 to 2021), it acts as an effective clearing-house for schemes put forward on behalf of competing local authorities across the region. Cllr Glazier, as the representative of East Sussex County Council on SELEP’s strategic board, has been in a good position to influence what it bids for.
In our last issue (HIP 146) we reported on the diversion of £5m public funding originally proposed for cycling and walking schemes in East Sussex (£3m in Hastings and Bexhill) to cover overspends on roadbuilding. That diversion was proposed by East Sussex County Council and must have been effectively signed off by Cllr Glazier. As per our report, the Council’s Chair David Elkin was served last month with a petition from local cycling groups asking for a reinstatement of this amount. No response has yet been forthcoming.
Read more about Keith Glazier
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