The East of England APPG held its first pre budget submission evidence session this week, chaired by Daniel Zeichner MP and Peter Aldous MP. With witnesses providing perspectives from rail, air and local government, it was clear that collaboration – between MPs, the new Mayor, local government, private business and other stakeholders – could help bring significant transport improvements and growth to the region.
The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, set himself the task of challenging the status quo – of ‘ludicrous’ timescales for infrastructure investment and was also critical of a ‘begging bowl’ culture. Land value capture, capping the profits from land adjacent to major public transport schemes, could subsidise affordable housing and fund public services, he said. This point was also emphasised by Cllr James Jamieson, Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, who said current revenues derived from housing developments are “barely enough to meet the increased demand for schooling.”
Palmer also suggested the monopoly of Network Rail is not providing value for money, while Jonathan Denby, Chief Executive of Greater Anglia, said that Network Rail’s current plans to simply maintain infrastructure do not go far enough. However, Denby also made clear that there will be a “fantastic opportunity” over the next few years to showcase the region, as every passenger and business is set to benefit from upgrades to trains and timetables following the new franchise.
Air links are vital to businesses in the East of England and Tim Hawkins of Stansted Airport cited a 10m increase in passenger numbers since MAG took ownership in 2013 and the start, later this year, of new services to Dubai and the United States as evidence that this is “Stansted’s moment.” Drawing attention to their recently launched ‘transformation plan,’ which would see a further £600million invested, he said that if the Government looks beyond Heathrow and integrates Stansted with Crossrail 2, the whole region would benefit.
The newly formed Transport East, a non-statutory transport forum, aims to deliver a collective vision for transport and associated infrastructure in the East of England and points to much greater collaboration. Although DfT, HMT and Network Rail control much transport funding, with coherent voice and leadership, it was agreed the East of England has huge opportunities ahead. The APPG intends to draw the various leaders together – and have two further evidence sessions – so that before the Autumn Budget a set of consensus propositions will be agreed and supported by all.