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Strategic infrastructure

Strategic infrastructure 

SEEC members believe that investment in strategic transport links and corridors is central to delivering greater economic growth for the South East and nationally. The South East acts as a transport gateway for the rest of the UK, providing access routes to our international ports and airports for exports, business travel and holidaymakers. SEEC is supportive of the South East’s 2 shadow Sub-national Transport Bodies and their work to make the case for transport investment.

Past SEEC work includes:

In January 2018 SEEC’s response to National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) consultation highlighted the need to tackle long-standing South East infrastructure challenges to unlock housing & jobs growth and underpin national economic success. The submission included SEEC data showing the South East’s net profitability had fallen behind London after many years where the South East was in the lead. This reinforced SEEC member concerns that an infrastructure funding gap – estimated at £15.4bn by 2030 – is holding back South East economic potential.

SEEC wrote to MPs and Ministers in July 2017 calling on Government to increase South East infrastructure investment, as new figures show that since 2013/14 South East net financial returns to Treasury have fallen behind London – a reversal of the long-term trend. The letter argued that the changing fortunes are down to different levels of public spending, including areas such as transport and enterprise/ employment investment. SEEC called on Government to re-invest a fair share of our net profit in South East transport, skills and hi-tech infrastructure so we can maximise economic growth.

Responding to DfT consultation in May 2017 on the Draft Airports National Policy Statement SEEC emphasised the importance of integrating transport improvements for increased airport capacity into the wider strategic transport network to ensure that non-airport traffic has access to viable alternative routes and avoid increasing congestion. Investment is also required in better transport links to other South East global economic gateways, such as Dover, Portsmouth and Southampton to maximise the economic growth potential from airport expansion.

SEEC’s response to the Industrial Strategy Green Paper in April 2017 calls for increased investment in the South East and the addition of an extra ‘pillar’ to reinforce the importance of housing to the economy. Without these, the South East’s role as a major funder of public spending and as a global gateway for UK plc is at risk. South East skills gaps, non-delivery of homes and under-investment in transport and infrastructure threaten both local and national economic growth.

In March 2017 SEEC responded to a Transport Select Committee Inquiry call for evidence on Government’s Draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). Our submission argues that transport improvements around an expanded Heathrow airport need to be part of a much wider strategic package that improves transport to other airports and economic gateways, such as ports. The package must also provide routes for non-airport traffic to bypass Heathrow, to prevent increasing congestion and damaging the South East and national economies.

SEEC’s submission to the National Infrastructure Assessment call for evidence  in February 2017 argues for more national investment in the South East. The South East is a key funder of public spending and a global transport gateway for businesses and travellers UK-wide. The joint SEEC /SESL submission argues both these roles are at risk from major infrastructure deficits, which will undermine the South East’s ability to facilitate further housing and economic growth. The submission calls on the National Infrastructure Commission to support a number of critical strategic transport routes in the South East, such as those highlighted in our Missing Links report, which if delivered would unlock significant economic and housing potential.

In January 2017 SEEC and SESL wrote to Transport Select Committee Chair, Louise Ellman MP to propose an investigation into how investment in strategic transport corridors can maximise the economic potential of international transport gateways. The proposal maintains the country needs an investment strategy that looks to deliver high quality and reliable long-distance strategic routes that businesses need to maximise their productivity and economic potential via an expanded Heathrow and other international gateways. It highlights the opportunity to build on the economic potential of Heathrow Airport’s expansion and help avoid increased transport congestion by investing in existing and new road and rail infrastructure.

In January 2016 SEEC, together with South East Strategic Leaders (SESL) and South East Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (SEDEEPT) produced the ‘Missing Links‘ report which calls for investment in 5 strategic transport projects that are vital to ensure the continued growth and success of the South East. The report looks beyond administrative boundaries and brings together the work of organisations from across the South East into a strategic, coherent transport improvement plan and asks Ministers to invest in key projects that will benefit the UK as a whole. The 5 projects are:

  • A34/M3 and rail links to Southampton-Portsmouth from Oxford and the West Midlands.
  • A2/M2 – links to the Channel Tunnel & Dover from London, the East and the Midlands.
  • A27/M27/A259 – from Dover to Southampton-Portsmouth.
  • Oxford to Cambridge, including improved A34/M40 link.
  • North Downs Rail – from Oxford, through Reading and Gatwick Airport to Ashford in Kent.

In summer 2014 SEEC  published ‘Mind the Gap‘ a report setting out the ‘gap in the market’ for funding strategic transport schemes that will improve links to and through the South East for travellers and freight from across the country. The report was well received and, following discussions with DfT Minister Baroness Kramer and recognition of some Mind the Gap schemes in the December 2014 Autumn Statement, work  is underway to update the report. Despite recognition of the value of investment in several Mind the Gap schemes, there still remains more to do to make the case for a more strategic approach to transport investment in some of the South East’s key travel corridors.

An initial discussion draft of a report outlining the gap in the market for strategic transport schemes was presented to SEEC’s All-Member meeting in February 2013. Work on this project is being carried out jointly by SEEC, South East Strategic Leaders and SEDEEPT (South East Directors of Economy, Environment, Planning & Transport).

This report builds on earlier work when SEEC members commissioned consultation to assess member interest in taking forward a small number of high level strategic transport issues. Both members and officers provided input to the consultation through a questionnaire, officer workshop and discussions with relevant directors in South East local authorities.

Consultation identified interest in a high level approach and SEEC agreed to take forward alight touch approach to strategic transport after considering recommendations from an independent consultant who reported his findings in an executive summary and full report.

Members backed consultation findings that clearly showed SEEC’s work should not include recreating the former regional transport board; prioritising projects on behalf of DfT; or duplicating councils’ own relationships with the DfT.

SEEC responded jointly with the South East Strategic Leaders group (SESL) to DfT’s consultation on devolving local major schemes in April 2012.