Transport Officers Group
Our close proximity to London, nationally important ports, and road and rail connections to the rest of the UK and continental Europe provide real opportunities for continued growth. As the Gateway to continental Europe, a reliable and connected transport network is needed to maintain this status so that the greater South East can compete on an international stage and complement London as a growth corridor.
The revenue generated by the South East’s high value economy supports investment in other areas and yet its future success is critically dependent on the resilience of the South East transport network, including its strategic air, road, rail, and port links connecting continental Europe to London, the Midlands and the North. While there is uncertainty about the trading mechanisms following the EU referendum, it is clear that to retain global competitiveness the UK must have global transport connections.
The geographical advantage of SELEP will not be altered by Brexit, and hence the arguments put forward for investment in the transport networks that connect us with continental Europe remain as strong as ever. SELEP is the gateway to Europe, providing the shortest and quickest connection to the continent. As a consequence, over three quarters of the HGVs exporting or importing goods to the continent are funnelled from across the length and breadth of the entire nation onto SELEP’s motorways and A-roads.
Home to five ports
Five ports located in the SELEP are within the top twenty UK ports for handling foreign trade. It is imperative that the road transport network connecting to these ports must be resilient, including to:
- The Port of Dover
- DP World London Gateway Port
- The Port of Tilbury
- The Port of Harwich
- The Port of Newhaven.
DP World is fast becoming a global competitor, as one of Europe’s largest deep-sea ports. Located only 30 miles from London and with £1.5bn investment plans, it is of national importance that there is an efficient and resilient transport network infrastructure is in place to support the port’s growth, as a means to build strong trading links with existing markets and emerging economies.
The Port of Dover continues to operate as the UK largest roll on – roll off Port. Over 26,762 tonnes of foreign trade was transported by HGVs through the Port of Dover in 2014, and this figure continues to rise year-on-year with no signs of abating with the Port of Dover witnessing a 25% increase in freight traffic over the past three years.
Ports do not present the end point for freight journeys and the final destination for a significant portion of this freight traffic is the Midlands and the North of England. From the Port of Dover, road haulage vehicles opt to use the M20 or the M2/A2 to reach the Dartford Crossing, before using the M1 or M11 (passing the Harlow Enterprise Zone at junction 8) to continue their journey. This places significant stress on the major pinch point on the Strategic Road Network, which is the Dartford Crossing.
The Lower Thames Crossing
The of the new Lower Thames Crossing is critical to the economic prosperity of the UK. 73% of business leaders say traffic congestion at Dartford affects their business, and 60% thought their business would grow and almost 50% said that they could employ more people if the problem of congestion were addressed. However, a new crossing should not be viewed in isolation.
A number of wider network improvements are required to fully realise its benefits, distribute them to the rest of the SELEP area and to help mitigate negative social and environmental impacts for the local communities directly affected by the crossing.
It is critical that the Channel Corridor operates efficiently and is resilient to incidents on the network. Resilience on this network is very limited. We are using, and seeking, investment to unleash the growth potential of the SELEP area through investment in the strategic and the local road network, to build a resilient transport network set for the future.
Investment in transport infrastructure
The importance of connectivity and investment in transport infrastructure is widely understood. The interdependencies between transport infrastructure and the economy, which have been highlighted through reports such as the Eddington Study, have brought the wider economic impact of transport to the forefront of investment decision.
There is now a widespread understanding of the need for a resilient and effective transport network to support a strong economy. SELEP has a proven track record for the successful delivery of sustainable transport interventions through Local Sustainable Transport Fund revenue investment. SELEP aspirations to deliver entirely new villages, towns and communities to accommodate population growth holds the potential to create high quality build environments, with health and wellbeing at the forefront of the design planning. Investment in sustainable transport interventions has a key role to play in achieving this outcome.