Driving forward the Transport Knowledge Hub

Local Growth Fund resources of over £7bn have been channeled through Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) since 2014 to fund projects up to 2020/21. The Transport Knowledge Hub has been established to ensure that LEPs have the right tools and knowledge to make the most effective use of those resources.

Within the first round of local growth deals, which covered 2015 and 2016, there was an emphasis on investment in conventional road based projects. This is partly because these are more tried and tested paths to demonstrate the business case for investment in road improvements.

However, many LEPs have now identified the potential for investment in more innovative projects, such as transport hubs and improvements to local bus and rail services, including better information for customers to enable them to make more sustainable transport choices. It can be more challenging to establish a robust business case for these types of multi-modal projects.

That's a gap that the Transport Knowledge Hub is designed to address, allowing LEPs, local authorities and others involved in funding decisions to access evidence, expertise and case studies from successful initiatives that are already in place across the country and abroad.

By sharing knowledge, best practice and information about transport infrastructure which promotes sustainable and inclusive economic growth, we can help each other to deliver high-quality projects.

That was the motivation behind our first Transport Knowledge Hub National Workshop in London on 8th September. This well-attended event connected policymakers, local and central government, the transport sector, LEP chief executives and academic experts under the banner of the Transport Knowledge Hub.

The workshop focused on the highly topical issue of 'land value capture'. It is well known that transport projects often trigger an uplift in the value of nearby property – but how can we measure this effect, and how can transport projects leverage this as a source of funding?

We were treated to a stellar line-up of presentations from an expert panel of speakers chaired by Professor Tony Travers of LSE. Lewis Atter, of KPMG's global infrastructure and projects group, issued a "hefty dose of reality" by highlighting the flaws in current funding mechanisms, and the need for a new approach if we are to unlock 'investment-led growth'.

Julian Ware, Transport for London's head of major project funding, highlighted the impact of major transport developments on house prices, and the challenge of capturing that value which currently benefits homeowners, although cannot be realised until the houses are sold. Rory Brooke, head of economics in Savills' planning division, examined the local factors which influence uplift in land value – namely the regeneration potential of the area, and to what degree that area already holds appeal for potential buyers.

The presentations sparked a lively discussion – and prompted Professor Travers to ask whether any attempt at land value capture is "doomed". The panel agreed that this might be the case under a business-as-usual situation, but new approaches to taxation, for example, might provide a solution. A full account of the meeting is available on the Transport Knowledge Hub website and a short video recapping the event can be viewed on our YouTube page.

It was clear from the response of our audience of more than 40 senior delegates, and the question-and-answer session that followed, that questions around the future funding of transport are of great interest to policy makers and investors. Finding answers is essential to the delivery of investment-led growth.

What's more, the session demonstrated that this type of knowledge sharing between economists and transport experts; theorists and implementers; can be very productive and help us to make spending decisions which make a real difference to delivering sustainable economic growth.

That, in a nutshell, is what the Transport Knowledge Hub is all about. Hub users can access a guidance tool and case studies of investment for sustainable and inclusive economic growth; and a news section featuring relevant industry and investment-related updates.

So take the time to visit the Hub at www.transportknowledgehub.org.uk; sign up for our weekly news updates and our monthly newsletter; and follow us on Twitter @TransportKH and our LinkedIn page. The more that people use the Hub to share information and examples of best practice, the more beneficial it becomes.