England's heartland prepares new ground


Regional transport body England's Economic Heartland (EEH) has published its Outline Transport Strategy for initial feedback before a formal consultation in the first half of 2020.

The document provides topline ambitions, concepts and approaches that will underpin the long-term framework for investment in strategic infrastructure and services in the region up to 2050. 


Stretching from Swindon across to Cambridgeshire and from Northamptonshire down to Hertfordshire, the EEH area has a population of more than 5.1 million, with its 280,000 businesses employing 2.7 million people. It is a net contributor to the Treasury, with an economy currently valued at more than £155bn per annum.

The regional body will take on the philosophy of ‘decide and provide’ to realise its overarching ambition of frictionless travel across end-to-end local journeys, supporting freight and logistics and benefiting national and international connectivity.

The concept is built around analysing the best mobility outcomes in a collective mutli-modal and digital market, which has the capacity to adapt to changes in geography and the rapid pace of change in society in comparison to the time it takes to bring major infrastructure projects to fruition.

No overall price tag is set for the regional vision in the document, although it states EEH will go on to develop a 'programme of works within an indicative funding envelop from central government'.

It will also explore the merits of seeking a ‘single pot’ approach to investment in strategic infrastructure and services.


Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson (pictured), chair of EEH’s Strategic Transport Forum – which includes elected leaders and cabinet members from authorities across the region - said: 'Future growth must go hand-in-hand with environmental improvements, and investment in the transport system is crucial to achieving this. The way forward cannot be ‘business as usual’ – we must harness the region’s reputation for innovation in order to do things differently.

'The challenges and opportunities facing us are unique and complex. That’s why we want to have a conversation with people and businesses focused around what they believe the transport system needs to deliver in the future. The Outline Transport Strategy is a significant milestone, providing us with the framework for that discussion. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in the region’s future to have their say and help shape the detail of our future transport system.'

The group also released a major freight strategy report.

The report recommends a range of solutions including creating structures to support a new approach to logistics such as:

  • Defining and recruiting an EEH freight officer
  • Establishing a Logistics Forum, with potential sub groups
  • Developing a freight engagement strategy

After Transport for the North was granted statutory status, EEH is one of the sub-national transport bodies next in line.

Tenets of connectivity:

The outline strategy provides a series of key summary points, including: 

  • The transport system must address physical, cultural and digital barriers to travel
  • Changes in travel behaviour, led in particular by the expansion of digital services, must shape our future investment priorities
  • Integrated ticketing solutions that provides passengers with ease of access and frictionless travel between modes and service providers will be prioritised
  • Delivering investment in strategic transport corridors will transform travel patterns, improve connectivity and help ensure that the sum of the parts is bigger than individual components
  • Where investment is being made in strategic transport corridors, these should include investment in digital infrastructure at the same time
  • Harnessing these offers opportunities to ensure that economic growth helps EEH achieve a zero carbon transport system by 2050
  • Improved connectivity to international gateways will support business activity by providing access to global markets
  • Shaping the way the freight industry is supported, evolves, and is regulated requires coordination at a regional level

Methodology and inputs 

  • EEH has worked to put in place a Regional Database that gives – for the first time – 'a single overview of what is currently planned for the region'
  • The development of a Regional Policy Scenario Model will provide EEH with the capability of exploring the relative impact of different scenarios and help it understand how the demand for travel differs between different groups.
  • EEH is developing a series of performance indicators, which will enable it to assess 'the baseline performance of the region’s transport system', building on the experience of the rail industry and Highways England. 
  • EEH aims to improve the quality and availability of freight data at the regional level by creating a repository of information to inform future interventions and smarter consolidation 

Major projects

The main projects within EEH's region include East West Rail and the Oxford to Cambridge expressway.

East West Rail will see services restored between Oxford and Cambridge and between Aylesbury to Milton Keynes. Integral to the overall project is the delivery of improved rail connections to the east of Cambridge, in particular with Norwich and Ipswich.

The Northampton – Milton Keynes – Aylesbury – High Wycombe – Old Oak Common corridor has also been identified as being of strategic importance to the rail network

In February 2019 the Government announced its preferred route for the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements, removing the final piece of single carriageway between Milton Keynes and Cambridge, another key road corridor.

An announcement on the preferred solution for investment in strategic road solutions between Oxford and Milton Keynes is expected in 2020 following a non-statutory consultation on options.

The A1(M) corridor has also been the subject of a strategic study undertaken by Highways England during the first Road Investment Strategy (RIS1). 

'A key opportunity for the region – and an immediate priority for action – is to deliver an approach that targets bus and coach travel, which are responsible for around two-thirds of the region’s journeys by public transport,' the document states.

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