Views sought on new transport body for Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire

Local transport authorities are coming together in Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire to provide strategic leadership to give confidence to business investors, says Heather Smith.

Initial views are being sought on an ambitious proposal to create a new strategic transport body which will enable local partners to set out a blueprint for major infrastructure schemes in the Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire region.

The 'sub-national transport body’ could potentially cover an area from Oxfordshire in the west to Cambridgeshire in the east, a region identified by the National Infrastructure Commission as the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley.

The proposal is being led by England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance, a partnership of local transport authorities and local enterprise partnerships that is working collaboratively to provide leadership on strategic infrastructure in order to boost business growth and productivity in the region.

The new body would be empowered to ensure local priorities shape national investment programmes. As such, the body would provide the leadership identified by the National Infrastructure Commission as being essential to providing a single voice on strategic transport infrastructure requirements.

The strategic alliance is seeking views on a number of potential models for the new transport body. They range from a ‘light-touch’ approach, carrying out a co-ordinating role without statutory powers, to a statutory body with responsibility for leadership on strategic transport issues.

Strategic transport issues by their nature stretch across geographical boundaries. We believe that there is an urgent need for local transport authorities to come together on such issues and provide the strategic leadership that will give confidence to business investors. 

We also believe it is important that priorities should be driven by our understanding of the key issues, which is why the potential offered by establishing a sub-national transport body makes such sense.

It would enable us to set out a comprehensive blueprint for our strategic transport needs over the next 30 years and would provide the single forum for an honest conversation with government about how we work together on unlocking our economic potential in a post-Brexit world.

We’re keen to hear from organisations, businesses and residents about how they feel the transport body should operate, the breadth of its powers and how we ensure it reflects the needs of transport users across the Heartland and in adjoining areas.

Written submissions on the proposal to establish such a sub-national transport body are welcome and should be submitted via by 5pm on 8 September 2017.

Councillor Heather Smith is chairman of England’s Economic Heartland’s Strategic Transport Forum and leader of Northamptonshire County Council.