In the second big announcement for the UK’s rail industry this week, transport secretary Chris Grayling has announced a £2 million funding boost to improve customer journeys and connectivity in the South East of England.
The money will go to transport bodies England’s Economic Heartland and Transport for the South East in what the government says is part of its strategy to give regions greater influence over transport investment decisions.
The Department for Transport says the plans will allow people in Kent, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire to influence investment decisions at a more regional level.
Grayling commented: “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.”
Councillor Keith Glazier, chairman of Transport for the South East, said: “This is a great step forward for our region’s transport system and all the people who rely on it. We’re grateful to the DfT for this vote of confidence in Transport for the South East and in the work we’re doing with them to ensure we have an innovative and efficient network for decades to come.”
Councillor Martin Tett, chairman of England’s Economic Heartland, added: “This investment by government is good news for [us] and will help us deliver our ambitious programme of work over the next 12 months, which includes work to develop and over-arching transport strategy and taking forward work to establish England’s Economic Heartland as a sub-national transport body.”
The announcement coincides with the DfT’s prior information notice, which sets out an enquiry to establish market appetite for a southern rail link to Heathrow airport. The market sounding aims to explore proposals for the infrastructure of a link and determine the appetite for sharing the risk of developing the project.
The DfT began seeking independent investment in a southern rail link to Heathrow in March.
Independent venture Heathrow Southern Railway was set up last year to propose an electric rail line spanning eight miles between the airport and Waterloo station via Clapham Junction, Putney, Hounslow, Twickenham, Richmond, Staines and other intermediate stations. The proposal says passengers from Kent and Sussex will have easier access to the airport with one change of train at Waterloo East or Clapham.
Commenting on the DfT’s call for proposals, Graham Cross, executive director of Heathrow Southern Railway, said: “This is a further important development in the process of constructing a privately-financed rail link to Heathrow from the south, made significantly on the same day as the launch of the new sub-national body Transport for the South East. We look forward to working with the DfT, Network Rail and other stakeholders to complete this next stage in the development of a project urgently needed to tackle congestion and improve air quality in the vicinity of Heathrow.”
The news comes after Rail Delivery Group announced it would launch a public consultation to establish a process for reforming the UK’s fares regulation.