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Sub-national Transport Bodies call for greater regional influence in joint response to Government’s Major Road Network consultation

Tuesday 20th March 2018

England’s four Sub-national Transport Bodies (STBs) say the Government should work with them to define its new Major Road Network (MRN), as part of an unprecedented joint response to the Department for Transport’s MRN consultation.

In a letter to Roads Minister Jesse Norman, Midlands Connect, Transport for the North, England’s Economic Heartland and Transport for the South East describe the MRN as a landmark and critical opportunity to drive economic growth across the country, and urge the Government to ensure STBs have an integral role in its definition and implementation.

The Government’s proposals would see funding made available to improve key ‘A’ roads managed by local transport authorities, but under its current plans, the MRN would be separate from the Strategic Road Network, while there would also be restrictions on what types of schemes would be eligible for funding.

The STBs argue that investment in Highways England’s roads and the more significant local authority roads should be taken forward as a single programme, and that specific eligibility criteria should be removed.

Alongside their own detailed individual responses to the MRN consultation, the STBs have submitted six joint recommendations to the Department for Transport (DfT) for the first time:

1. Work with nascent Sub-national Transport Bodies (STBs) to define the Major Road Network. STBs have all worked closely with local government partners to reach consensus on the priority roads in their areas, backed up by robust evidence;
2. Plan and invest in the MRN as a single network to enable it to focus on outcomes for road users for the benefit of residents and businesses;
3. Identify indicative, regional funding levels within which advice on investment can be planned over the long term, to incentivise an effective pipeline of improvements planned and funded by all parties together;
4. We agree with the DfT that investment should have an unerring focus on outcomes for road users, but disagree with the approach to specifically identify eligibility criteria which could limit the holistic view the MRN is seeking to enable;
5. STBs should provide a reporting and monitoring role, considering wider economic benefits and multi-modal options for our areas;
6. The DfT should clarify the long-term role STBs can offer in any further announcements on the MRN. STBs can act as co-creators for the road network, with strong and united voices to support and safeguard delivery of the MRN.

Sir John Peace, Chairman of Midlands Connect, said:
“Our Midlands-wide partnership has a deep understanding of the transport and economic priorities of our region. It’s therefore vital that the DfT proactively involves Sub-national Transport Bodies in the final decisions around what is defined as part of the Major Road Network. Midlands Connect’s response to this consultation has involved an unprecedented level of collaboration with our local transport authority partners to identify an MRN that maximises the benefits to road users and harnesses the potential for huge economic growth that road improvements can unlock across the region. We are ready to act as a vital bridge between local and central government to transform investment in our roads.”

John Cridland, Chairman of Transport for the North, said:
“Our nineteen local and combined authority partners and eleven Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) members represent the whole of the North of England, working together to speak with a united voice on the transport infrastructure investment needed to drive economic growth in the region. Together we have agreed on a Major Roads Network of the North, recognising the strategic and local roads which are vital for future prosperity and which enable multimodal connections between road, rail and international gateways.

“We are now joining with our STB partners from around England to call for our expertise and local knowledge to be recognised in the development of England’s Major Road Network, to ensure that the seamless network adequately reflects all the roads which are vital for our country’s economy, both now and in the future.”

Martin Tett, Chairman of England’s Economic Heartland, said:
“We strongly believe the MRN should be a single network, one that embraces both the Strategic Road Network and the more significant local authority roads – as outlined in the original Rees Jeffreys report. We don’t believe there is a need to identify eligibility criteria. For example, public transport proposals which would reduce congestion on the MRN should be considered on their own merits. As STBs we will work together to ensure the Major Road Network improves connectivity across regional boundaries, unlocking economic growth in all parts of the country.”

Keith Glazier, Chairman of Transport for the South East, said:
“Our joint response to Government on the best approach to a strategic road network shows the importance of STBs. Each of us know what will work best for the residents and business in our own region but we all agree on the model we need to deliver this.”

The Government’s Major Road Network consultation ended on March 19th 2018.

Transport for the North will become the first statutory Sub-national Transport Body on April 1st, giving it legal status to advise Government on transport funding. Ministers have shown their commitment to creating additional STBs, with Midlands Connect, England’s Economic Heartland and Transport for the South East all declaring their intention to submit proposals to Government.

The full text of the letter to Jesse Norman MP can be viewed here.

Transport for the North’s own response to the consultation can be viewed here.