Three major counties have unveiled a groundbreaking plan to work across their borders and develop an integrated approach to transport and highways planning and delivery.
In a submission to government, the strategic alliance of Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire has outlined plans predicted to yield a 20% increase in the value of their combined economy by 2020 – generating an additional £9bn a year.
Transport Network can also reveal that authorities in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton have also shown initial interest in the scheme and could enter talks to join the framework.
Outlined in a document titled, England’s Economic Heartland, the councils suggest that by working together to deliver an identified £3bn investment in transport they could reduce the costs of infrastructure projects by 40% and accelerate delivery by a third.
Source suggest around £1bn is already available to the authorities and the strategic alliance will look to the Government and the private sector for support securing the remaining £2bn needed to fully realise the plan.
Under the plans the counties’ strategic alliance would create a Transport Infrastructure Forum to lead the agenda and provide the necessary governance.
The authorities hope that a minister might be appointed chair of the forum to lend extra weight to the project, alongside elected members, Local Enterprise Partnership board members and civil servants from the transport and communities and local government departments.
As well as new delivery mechanisms the authorities have also called for new statutory powers to bring in bus franchising.
The plans also include:
- a single strategic transport plan and pipeline for infrastructure and policy and delivery, which could be put on a statutory basis
- a single approach to highways network management and development between local authorities and Highways England under a redefined road hierarchy
- a single utility permit scheme
- a single parking enforcement capacity and penalty notice system
- joint commissioning of transport services on an integrated approach covering other sectors including health
- a single cycling and walking strategy
- a single freight strategy
- introducing contactless payment and integrated ticketing across the region
- a single platform named ‘One Transport’ to share data and encourage entrepreneurs and innovators to develop end-user products
- the locality acting as a ‘living laboratory’ demonstration area for technology-enabled innovation and smart solutions
On the back of these plans the strategic alliance aims to agree a five-year Growth Deal with the government that could help devolve extra funding and powers to deliver the project.
It has also called on Government to provide £10m of seed money to help develop individual scheme proposals.
A key architect of the plans, director of environment, development and transport Tony Ciaburro said that most of the plans would be taken forward without government support but with ministerial help ‘we could do more and faster’.
‘This builds on the strategic partnerships we have in place with major private companies such as BT. It also builds on the Total Transport initiative we have established to integrate services in the area. It is a groundbreaking initiative that presents a new model of working in county council two tier areas that could be copied across the country,’ he added.
Mr Ciaburro ruled out extra local levies ‘at this stage’ and suggested the first aim was to prove the new model would have robust governance and a strong business case so it could lead by example and attract interest from all sectors.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire CC, said: 'Many journeys with a big impact on the local economy don’t start or end in Oxfordshire so it is important that investment in our major roads network is planned with our neighbours. That’s why we are working closely with Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire to press government to invest in these roads that are so crucial to creating jobs and helping people get to work.
'By talking with one voice, we’re sure that government is more likely to listen to the strong business case for this vitally important investment that supports its growth ambition.'
The strategic alliance aims to deliver a business case report this autumn and could see the formal establishment of the Transport Forum by April next year.
Civil servants have said they would respond in due course