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East of England boost to major infrastructure

Future Cities Forum has been speaking to Rowland Potter, Head of Transport at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, ahead of our November forum in Cambridge, where we will be talking about future infrastructure and how this will continue to drive economic gains for the region and improve connections to major business hubs across the UK.

Rowland spoke of the importance of the global brand of Cambridge, its health and science knowledge economy but also of the importance in the UK of expanding the economy of the region but improving connectivity and infrastructure with the west of the country.

'This is an extremely important corridor. So much focus in the past has been on road connections to and from London and the south east, but there is much economic value in improving infrastructure that cuts across from Cambridge to Bristol and northwards to the midlands and east to Felixstowe.

'The next 20 years in the evolution of transportation technology is as important as the invention of the combustion engine was in its day, and we want to use and embrace that technology whether it be joined up ticketing or autonomous vehicles, but equally as important is connecting that important trade line between the east and west of the country'.

Rowland's comments follow the Department of Transport's announcement that a key section of the UK's biggest road upgrade will open a year ahead of schedule, delivering a boost to the government's plans for an infrastructure revolution.The new A14 bypass (pictured above by Skanska) will, the government says, benefit the whole of the UK by improving access to and from key ports such as Felixstowe. It is part of a wider 21 mile scheme in Cambridgeshire which will save drivers up to 20 minutes per journey, benefitting people living and working across the entire region.

Roads Minister Baroness Vere said:

'The government is committed to delivering an infrastructure revolution and it's fantastic that a key section of the vital route will be delivered a year ahead of schedule, helping people travelling in the east of England get to their destination quickly and safely. The A14 upgrade will not only improve the experience for local drivers but will also boost access between the region's ports and the West Midlands - a key logistics hub.'

Rowland was keen to tell us about the rich and varied region that he works in and which presents both challenges and opportunities as well as the importance of linking the larger market towns like Wisbech and King's Lynn beyond Cambridge and Peterborough to industry hubs and to housing:

'We need to work on relieving congestion, continue to provide quicker travel, better local transport solutions, with options other than car. Getting from now to where we want to be, understanding the pace that can happen and collaborating in groups is so important. Being part of the Oxford - Milton Keynes - Cambridge Arc is one focus but also the economic value of linking the region more effectively to the west of England and to the east coast ports is vital.

'In an ideal world, we would have all the infrastructure in place and transport to support the first occupiers of our new housing developments, but achieving this can have a varied pace and funding is always a challenge. There is definitely a strong business case for investment, but there is a lot of work to be done. Transport development does not operate in isolation but within an industrial strategy. Then there is the importance of planning-in green space. We want to get ahead of the curve, now a lot of housing is in place, but we need to concentrate on transport - junctions, roads, cycle ways, and a model for autonomous vehicles.

'We have big ambitions, for instance we have just procured a supplier to look at the congestion issues around transportation and how we can introduce more walking and cycling in Royston. But we need to do more. We need to look at the congested corridors in and out of areas such as at Huntingdon and use technology to help understand how we can smooth the flow of traffic. In all, we intend to work collaboratively and work smarter.'

Future Cities Forum will be looking at some of these issues in the two workshops that are an important part of our discussions in Cambridge next month.

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