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Connecting the South East conference puts the focus on transport


Roads, rail and routes in the south east are congested and inefficient, damaging business profitability and the UK’s global attractiveness. That was the message at the Connecting the South East conference, held at Farnborough International, recently.

With the ambition to look into opportunity and growth through transport, the conference was attended by over 150 business leaders and professionals with a stake in transportation. Transport for the South East (TFSE) hosted the event, a partnership of 16 local authorities and five Local Enterprise Partnerships with the purpose of speaking with one voice on strategic transport needs to Government.  

Clive Soper, FSB South East Region Policy representative (pictured left at the conference with Stewart Drew, Chief Executive of the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, right) is on the TFSE stakeholder forum for South East Local Enterprise Partnership and is campaigning for improvements to the A27, ‘Operation Stack’ in Kent and the extension of HS1 into Sussex, amongst other needed developments.

The area covered stretches from the North Sea to the Solent and from the cliffs of Dover to the Berkshire Downs. Although including the South Downs National Park and many areas of outstanding natural beauty, the south east hums with activity including international airports, major ports and the busiest road and rail network in the UK. Indeed, the conference heard of the importance of Dover to the UK economy, with 46% of exports and 53% of imports from the EU coming through the port.  

The conference included findings from the TFSE economic connectivity review and a panel discussion on the economic, social and environmental perspectives on the future of transport. Clive Soper for the FSB said, “Innovation in transport and use of smart technology were key themes today – we need to invest wisely in transport schemes that are strategic and part of a longer term vision – as far as we can predict future requirements. In a post-Brexit Britain, the south east, as the UK’s international gateway, is important to invest in to support the UK economy as a whole.”

At the conference Baroness Jo Valentine gave a project briefing on the Heathrow Southern Railway scheme that could transfer three million car trips per year that use the south west quadrant of the M25, to rail. The rail route also proposes a link from the airport to London, Waterloo – providing access to Kent and East Sussex via Waterloo East station.