Proposals to create a sub-national transport body stretching across Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire are being considered by councillors.
Meetings are currently being held across the region to discuss creating a shadow body known as Transport for the South East (TfSE), with a view to it following in the footsteps of Transport for the North and Midlands Connect.
There have been officer level discussions about establishing the body between representatives from East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, and Surrey CCs, Brighton & Hove City Council, Medway Council, and the four local enterprise partnerships in the region. Isle of Wight Council, Portsmouth and Southampton city councils are also due to be invited to join the talks.
A report due to go before East Sussex CC’s cabinet today said: “TfSE would provide a mechanism for the area to speak with a strong, common voice on transport infrastructure and provide a single platform for strategic transport and infrastructure issues, giving partners greater, and potentially direct, influence over decisions that are currently made elsewhere.”
The Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 allows for sub-national transport bodies to be created.
The proposals to create TfSE are being drawn up “in parallel” to discussions about a devolution deal for the Three Southern Counties – covering Surrey, East Sussex, and West Sussex –, the report said but added “they are not dependent on one another to be realised”.
Creating a sub-national transport body for the south-east would give the region greater “influence over national and regional infrastructure providers” while also helping to “unlock further significant funding for strategic transport” across the south-east.
TfSE’s transport strategy would “complement” the LEPs’ strategic economic plans and “support the delivery” of councils’ local housing plans, the report said.
It is anticipated it could take up to two years for TfSE to gain ministerial approval. The report added: “As we progress towards a more formal body and develop the necessary governance arrangements, we will also have to consider how we can take on board the voice of the borough and district council colleagues most effectively.”
Local authorities in Berkshire could also be asked to become members along with representatives from Transport for London.
The report said: “Transport for London (TfL) represents the most significant transport hub in the south and has significant economic impact resulting from their investment decisions. It is for this reason they will also be included as part of the membership of TfSE. However, in return, TfSE should make representation to become a member of the TfL board.”
Additional members of the shadow board will also be considered “on a case by case basis”, the report said but added the Department for Transport, Highways England, Network Rail, and airport, sea port, bus, and train operating companies should be involved at a “minimum”.
Each council involved is being asked to contribute £20,000 towards the cost of creating an overarching transport strategy.
LGC reported last month how a partnership between Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, and Oxfordshire CCs, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes councils, Bedford and Luton BCs, and the four local enterprise partnerships covering the region hope to submit a bid to government to become a sub-national transport body next spring.