APPG Inquiry into the Effectiveness of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPS)
1. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this inquiry.
2. Freight on Rail, a partnership of the rail freight industry, the transport trade unions and Campaign for Better Transport, works to promote the economic, social and environmental benefits of rail freight to local, central Government and associated organisations.
We aim to help local authorities and LEPs, through all the stages of the modal shift to rail such as planning a rail-freight strategy, accessing grants, understanding technical issues and obstacles and engaging with terminal operators, local business and the logistics industry.
3. While it is relatively early days in terms of measuring results in the delivery of actual transport schemes, however, there should be concrete evidence of transport schemes being developed by LEPs in terms of spatial, strategic with defined funding packages.
Case study of excellent LEP support for key rail freight capacity scheme
Freight on Rail was pleased to jointly run a rail freight seminar at Felixstowe with New Anglia and Greater Cambridgeshire and Peterborough LEPs. This event had a very positive outcome as the LEPs and local Chambers of Commerce wrote to the Government recommending support for the capacity upgrades on the parallel rail route to the A14 which have been funded in the Government’s HLOS announcements on 16th July.
In summary, Freight on Rail would like to see investigation into the following:-
The Effectiveness of LEPS with regard to wider strategic transport and spatial planning at a sub-national level.
Because of the nature and scale of LEPs, it is important that the new Local Transport Bodies are able to take a wider strategic view of transport planning.
Freight transport in particular tends not to be confined to local authority or LEP boundaries.
Especially, in the case of rail freight, as the majority of flows are longer distance and may transit several regions.
Therefore consortia of LEPs need to work together to plan strategic transport projects. This starts with defining and safeguarding suitable sites for terminals and alignments in local plans. Then working with a local authorities and the rail freight industry to plan and fund transport projects.
LEPS need to take into account the wider national and sub-national benefits of rail freight beyond Local authorities and LEPs areas of responsibility. In some cases, even though there are clear economic benefits including job creation of a interchange development, there can be local opposition because of extra local HGV traffic. However, there are clear sub-national benefits of long distance road congestion reduction and road accidents and pollution reduction.
4. Investigation needed into new Local Transport Bodies
Earlier this year, the Department for Transport consulted on options for devolving decisions on, and funding for, sub-national major transport schemes to new Local Transport Bodies. The consultation document envisaged a significant role for Local Enterprise Partnerships in the new LTBs. This change to the current way of deciding sub-national major transport schemes is a new departure for the Department and for transport planning in this country, a departure the implications of which are currently unclear.
5. Accountability and Transparency of LEPs and Local Transport Bodies
Local Authorities are publicly accountable bodies unlike Local Enterprise Partnerships which do not have statutory status. We would suggest that the APPG should consider the implications of Local Transport bodies with a significant role for LEPs on the quality and coherence of transport planning in terms of rail freight; this includes reviewing the viability of local plans, Local Transport Plans and the public accountability and transparency. Because LEPs are private sector led, LEPs are for example exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.