A hugely ambitious multi-billion pound strategy to transform the county’s transport infrastructure has been revealed.
The 30-year plan, compiled by Transport for the South East, says the plans – which would boost everything from public transport to roads and rail links – would not only ensure the region remains an economic powerhouse, but would decarbonize the transport network by 2050.
Transport for the South East (TfSE) is a sub-national transport body with representation from Kent County Council and Medway Council, as well as our district authorities.
Created in 2017, it covers a wide area which includes Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire and also includes the likes of National Highways, Transport for London and National Rail.
Among the improvements he wants to see are direct rail services from central and east Kent to Gatwick Airport and better integration of rail services to Ebbsfleet, Canterbury, Maidstone and Strood, where currently several lines intersect without easy access to each other. Another long-term goal would be to bring the Elizabeth Line – the new underground route – to Ebbsfleet.
He wants to see extended high-speed rail services to link Ashford to Eastbourne, via Hastings, as well as improved coastal services.
On the roads it includes improvements at Brenley Corner, Faversham, for the M2/A2, a relief road for the A28 between Thanet Way at Birchington for Margate and improvements on the A21 in the west of the county.
It is also essential to significantly boost bus services linking communities and business centers.
Across the region, he estimates improvements will cost £45billion. But he says adopting his proposals would create thousands of jobs, cut car journeys and make using public transport cheaper and a more compelling proposal.
Says Rupert Clubb, director of Transport for the South East: “This is a bold and ambitious investment plan, but we believe it is deliverable. Our job is to convince the government and other funders to support and sustain him.”
The proposal, the strategic investment plan, is currently in draft form and is in consultation until September.
After that, views will be considered and incorporated before the document is forwarded to the Secretary of State for Transport as an advisory document.
The options outlined would undoubtedly be a huge boost for the region, including rebalancing the cost of using efficient and reliable public transport versus public cars.
But that begs the big question – is it just too idealistic and will the Department for Transport (DfT) – which funds the TfSE through a grant – really take it into account?
“Our advice isn’t in idealism,” says Rupert Clubb, “it’s after a plan that you can turn into reality – because that’s how people will judge us.
“Anyone can produce a brilliant coffee table document that everyone says ‘it would be nice if that happened,’ but there’s something about the way you try to turn that into reality.
“Our strategy has been accepted by the DfT and it will take this into account in terms of policy setting and investment decisions.
“So one way of putting it is that this is advice to the Secretary of State on the types of interventions that provide economic benefits, new jobs, provide opportunities for new housing and attract foreign investment .”
He adds: “The way transport is funded and the way we think about it is quite often in a modal sense – so we think of rail, road or bus. What our strategy and investment plan is starting to do is how you integrate these So for the user the ability to show up at a station, get to their destination, and then there’s a really good hub to get other transportation – a bus, a electric bike, or whatever.
“One of our requests to the government is to remove the modal closure of funding and start thinking about how you really fit in.”
To see all the details and participate in the consultation, click here. It also details two public webinars open to all to learn more about the proposed devices.