Transport for the South East has invited tenders for five area-based transport studies that will help identify the region’s investment priorities. Only one will definitely proceed this year, however, with the progress of others reliant on TfSE receiving a grant from the DfT.
TfSE has made the outer orbital area study its top priority. This will assess the investment needs from Thanet/Herne Bay in Kent all the way along the south coast to the New Forest on TfSE’s western boundary. The non-statutory sub-national transport body already has funds to commence this piece of work.
Of the other four studies, one will cover TfSE’s inner orbital area from the Medway Towns to Reading/Basingstoke, round the south of London.
The three other area studies are described as radial studies, each covering a segment of the TfSE area. From west to east these are:
Each area study is expected to cost £350,000. TfSE envisages phasing them over two financial years. They will inform its strategic investment plan.
Since March 2018 the DfT has provided TfSE with £1.6m.
Rupert Clubb, TfSE’s lead officer, told shadow partnership board members last week: “Although positive discussions are continuing with the DfT, confirmation of grant funding for this financial year has not yet been received.”
TfSE has developed three budget scenarios, ranging from a £1m grant to zero.
Clubb said starting the year under a zero grant scenario would still enable some technical work to continue, including completing the transport strategy and a future mobility strategy (the latter by WSP), and the commencement of the outer orbital study.
TfSE also intends to prepare a freight, logistics and gateways strategy. A scoping exercise for this was awarded to consultant AECOM in January. The commissioning of the strategy proper depends on DfT grant.
TfSE’s staffing costs are met from member local authority contributions, which amounted to £498,000 in 2019/20. This funds a team of 7.8 full-time equivalent staff based at East Sussex County Council, TfSE’s accountable body.
Clubb said TfSE’s forecast £530,000 staff costs in 2020/21 could be fully covered from council contributions, including a small amount of unspent funding carried over.
“In the event that TfSE receives funding from the DfT, it is proposed that additional resource is recruited to support the delivery of the technical programme,” he added.
Staff costs for 2021/22 depend on ongoing contributions from member authorities. “In addition to this, TfSE has made representations to the DfT that future grant funding should have some flexibility to cover core staff costs, as well as the technical programme,” said Clubb. “This reflects the arrangements in place in Transport for the North and Midlands Connect.”
TfSE staff were recruited from September 2018 on fixed term contracts for two years. Once staff have been in contract for two years they become eligible for full employment rights, including redundancy costs.
“As such, consideration should be given to converting the fixed term contracts to permanent contracts,” said Clubb. A decision to extend contracts would “only be made once TfSE has certainty about the DfT grant funding for 2020/21”, he said.
TfSE plans to apply to the DfT to become a statutory sub-national transport body following the completion of its regional transport strategy this summer.
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