Transport for the South East wants to formalise its role as the regions’s voice for strategic transport by becoming a statutory body


A partnership of local authorities and business leaders in the South East of England have submitted a ground-breaking bid for transport devolution in the region.

The proposal from Transport for the South East is designed to boost the region’s economic recovery from the effects of Covid-19 and accelerate investment in sustainable transport as part of a 30-year transport strategy.

If agreed by transport secretary Grant Shapps and approved by parliament, Transport for the South East would become a statutory sub-national transport body with direct influence over government decision-making on transport issues and the powers needed to deliver major improvements to the South East’s transport network.

The bid has the backing of the South East’s local authorities and local economic partnerships (LEPs) representing more than 7.5 million people and 300,000 businesses. Chambers of commerce, transport operators, ports, airports, protected landscapes and universities in the South East have also given their support, as have national organisations including the Confederation of British Industry and passenger watchdog Transport Focus.

“The South East is a true powerhouse for the UK economy, contributing more than any other region outside London,” said Cllr Keith Glazier, chair of Transport for the South East. “It’s the country’s principal international gateway for people and goods and drives productivity and prosperity across the UK.

“Our transport strategy sets out how investment in a more sustainable transport network will help our economy recover and grow, delivering a green transport revolution that will create jobs, boost quality of life and help cut carbon emissions to net-zero.

Transport for the South East has quickly emerged as a powerful and effective partnership for our region, but delivering on our ambitions will require more than just partnership working

“Transport for the South East has quickly emerged as a powerful and effective partnership for our region, but delivering on our ambitions will require more than just partnership working. That’s why we want to formalise our role as the South East’s voice for strategic transport by becoming a statutory body.

“Statutory status will mean we can work with government to decide how and where money is spent on our region’s transport network and give us the powers we need to accelerate schemes and projects which are better for people, better for business and better for the planet.”

Transport for the South East was formed in 2017 and brings together 16 local transport authorities and five local economic partnerships along with other partners including Network Rail and Highways England to speak with one voice on the region’s transport investment priorities.

The powers and responsibilities Transport for the South East is seeking would allow the partnership to:

  • Develop and implement a Strategic Investment Plan for the region
  • Act as ‘one voice’ for the South East in agreeing investment priorities with the Secretary of State for Transport
  • Become a statutory partner in road and rail investment decisions
  • Improve bus services for passengers and provide improved alternatives to car travel
  • Coordinate the delivery of region-wide integrated smart ticketing
  • Implement road charging schemes linked to Clean Air Zones to improve quality of life for people in the South East

The devolved powers are designed to support the delivery of Transport for the South East’s 30-year transport strategy, which sets out how investment in sustainable transport can deliver a significant shift to public transport from private vehicles, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle poor air quality in the region’s towns and cities, better connect its ports and airports, improve transport links for deprived communities and make planning and paying for travel simpler and easier for everyone.

The strategy was approved by Transport for the South East’s partnership board following public consultation. It will be used to inform a series of area studies which will determine packages of investment to improve north-south and east-west travel in the South East. Taken together, these investment packages will form a regional strategic investment plan which Transport for the South East plans to publish in 2022.

You can read Transport for the South East’s proposal to government for statutory status here.

The ability to create sub-national transport bodies (STBs) to plan and prioritise long-term infrastructure investment in a specific region was created by parliament with an amendment to the Local Transport Act 2008 which was passed in January 2016.

Formal consent from an STB’s constituent authorities is a legislative requirement for statutory status. Transport for the South East’s 16 constituent authorities – listed below – have all provided their formal consent for the submission:

  • Bracknell Forest Council
  • Brighton & Hove City Council
  • East Sussex County Council
  • Hampshire County Council
  • Isle of Wight Council
  • Kent County Council
  • Medway Council
  • Portsmouth City Council
  • Reading Borough CouncilRoyal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead
  • Slough Borough Council
  • Southampton City Council
  • Surrey County Council
  • West Sussex County Council
  • West Berkshire Council
  • Wokingham Borough Council

In addition, letters of support for Transport for the South East’s proposal have been received from the following groups and organisations:

  • Aecom
  • Atkins
  • Berkshire Local Transport Body
  • Borough and district authorities x46
  • Coast to Capital LEP
  • Confederation of British Industry
  • Confederation of Passenger TransportEnterprise M3 LEP
  • Eurovia
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Go South Coast
  • Hampshire Chamber of Commerce
  • Heathrow Airport
  • HelloDone
  • Institute of Civil Engineers
  • Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce
  • Solent LEP
  • South Downs National Park Authority
  • South East LEP
  • Thames Valley Berkshire LEP
  • Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • Transport for London
  • Transport East
  • Transport Focus
  • University of ChichesterUniversity of Portsmouth
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Sussex
  • Western Gateway

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