Group hopes Â£1m grant will help to end south coast traffic problems
A Â£1 million boost from the government could be the first step in ending commuter woes along the south coast.
Today it was announced that Transport for the South East would be granted the cash in a bid to improve journey times and links to other parts of the country.
It is thought the money could lead to safer and less congested roads in and around Portsmouth, including the A27 and M27.
Specifically the investment will help the regional group gain official status as a statutory body. This will allow it to develop transport strategies with its 16 partnering councils and five local enterprise partnerships covering an area that stretches from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to Surrey and Kent.
Chairman of Transport for the South East, East Sussex councillor Keith Glazier, was hopeful the make-up of the group would give it more clout. He said: ‘If we speak with a single voice we’ll have more power to direct investment in the transport network where it’s most urgently needed, including in Portsmouth and Hampshire.
‘The funding is a great vote of confidence in the work we’re doing to transform transport for people and businesses in the south east. Our success benefits the whole UK because this region adds £200 billion a year to the national economy.’
Councillor Simon Bosher from Portsmouth City Council was concerned about which areas would receive more attention. He said: ‘I’ve been working with my Southampton counterpart Cllr Jacqui Rayment to ensure that whatever funding comes from government to support the south east should not be centred on one area. It needs to be focused on travelling from the east to the west rather than just thinking that all roads lead to London.
‘A lot of money should be spent on the A3, A27 and M27 - especially with the new Highways England smart motorway on the M27 that is planned to stop at Fareham. This will cause even more congestion on Portsea Island which essentially only has three roads in and out.’
Cllr Jacqui Rayment added: ‘What was clear in the past was that a lot of money had gone to the north because they collaborated and were better organised.
‘The fact that we have all come together to work on this to ensure proper representation for our areas is a really positive step forward and I am delighted the government has recognised the benefits this will bring.’
England’s Economic Heartland, which covers Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire, was also awarded £1 million by the Department for Transport.
The news comes after new figures from Transport for the South East revealed that every minute saved travelling on the A3 could pump £4,055,647 into the local economy.
Cllr Keith Glazier added: ‘There are clear benefits for the whole country in carefully planned investment in the south east’s transport network. This review shows that even modest improvements in capacity and journey time will lead to significant rises in productivity for business and in quality of life for the travelling public.
‘Yet there is no single body to co-ordinate long-term transport strategy across the south east. Our partnership is ready to provide that.’ Comments from transport secretary Chris Grayling: ‘This will help us build the modern and effective links our country needs, improving journey times, boosting housing development and economic growth, and getting people and goods where they need to be faster, safely and more comfortably. Investing in England’s Economic Heartland and Transport for the South East means that those best placed to make decisions have our support to put forward ambitious proposals for the future. We will continue to work closely with these organisations as they develop transport strategies to help their regions seize their potential.’