A sustainable route to growth for the South East

Transport for the South East's thirty-year transport strategy sets out a bold and compelling vision for our region's future – and a framework to get us there.

We have much to feel good about here in the South East.

Our economy is the UK's second biggest behind London. Our three million workers are among the most productive in the country. Our ports, airports and high-speed railway provide fast and efficient links with mainland Europe and the rest of the world. Our thriving research institutions include national and world-leading universities. Our beautiful countryside, coastline, historic towns and dynamic cities attract millions of visitors a year.

But we face a real challenge. Despite these enviable foundations – and in some cases because of them – our transport infrastructure is operating beyond capacity and can't sustain ongoing growth. In many areas investment in our roads and railways hasn't kept pace and new housing provision is being hampered by the lack of adequate transport infrastructure.
Our transport strategy, now published in draft for consultation, sets out to tackle this challenge and to ensure that our region's success story continues.

A new approach

At the heart of our draft transport strategy is a simple question: What kind of place do we want the South East to be thirty years from now? The answer provides the basis of our vision for 2050 and the strategic goals and priorities which will guide investment decisions over the next three decades.

We've started by modelling how and where the South East's transport network will come under strain in future. But instead of taking the traditional approach – proposing to expand the network in the areas of most severe stress and strain – our strategy sets out how this congestion could be lessened while still supporting economic growth.

We will do this by focusing on large-scale investment in attractive, high-quality public transport. We will ensure that new and emerging technology is used to its full potential to boost connectivity. We will make the case for policy changes which enable more joined up planning, particularly between transport and housing, to help reduce the need to travel and build more sustainable communities. And we will need to make some tough decisions about how, not if, we manage demand on the busiest parts of our transport networks.

The size of the prize

If we get this right, the prize is huge.

Our strategy has identified that with the right investment in our transport network we can grow the number of jobs in our region from 3.3 million today to 4.2 million and more than double our economy from today's £183 billion to between £450 and £500 billion Gross Value Added a year. This is almost 500,000 more jobs and at least £50 billion more per year than without investing in the opportunities we've identified.

And we will do this in a way that is good for people, good for business and good for the planet, because our strategy is clear that balancing economic, social and environmental priorities is the only way to achieve truly sustainable growth.

Growth that helps our businesses prosper and compete better in the global marketplace. Growth that improves the quality of life and access to opportunities of our 7.5m residents. Growth that protects and enhances our region's unique natural and historic environment.

This is a thirty-year strategy. The changes we want to see will not all happen overnight and in some instances there are big policy challenges and other hurdles which stand in our way. But we're confident in the ability of our partnership to make the case for doing things differently.

Next steps

The final transport strategy, which we plan to publish in spring 2020, will provide the key piece of evidence in persuading the government to make Transport for the South East a statutory sub-national transport body – demonstrating how we can make a real difference, transforming the lives of the travelling public, enabling the innovation that businesses need and delivering sustainable economic growth across the region.

The strategy will provide the framework for a series of area studies looking in detail at orbital and radial connectivity in the South East to identify specific opportunities. We're also commissioning thematic studies looking at freight, smart and integrated ticketing, future mobility and mobility as a service as key enablers of sustainable economic growth.

The results of all these will inform our strategic investment plan, which will provide a prioritised, costed and deliverable list of schemes, initiatives and policies to start turning our vision for the South East into reality.

Have your say
It's incredibly important to us that this strategy is something that everyone living, working and doing business in our region can get behind – so please go to tfse.org.uk/transport-strategy and have your say. The closing date for consultation responses is Friday, 10 January 2020.

Rupert Clubb is the lead officer at Transport for the South East