Roads Minister Andrew Jones delivers a speech on transport investment in Hastings.
Thank you for your welcome.
It’s great to be down on the beautiful south coast in a town with such a fantastic history.
And with the cutting-edge driverless cars on display at this summit.
We can also see something of the Hastings of the future, too.
In fact, with the presentations from the rail and bus companies, as well as Highways England and Network Rail here today.
You will have heard about the transport improvements already in progress for Hastings.
As yesterday’s budget showed, investing in the rail and road network in the UK is a priority for the government.
And there’s certainly more work to do for Hastings.
As the Roads Minister, I have seen how new expressways, new link roads or even things as simple as better junctions can unlock investment, spread prosperity and ultimately improve people’s lives.
Because a modern transport network doesn’t just lead to faster journeys from A to B.
It creates new jobs and housing.
It cuts congestion and improves the local environment.
And most of all, it creates opportunity.
One of the privileges of being a Transport Minister is getting out of the office.
And seeing the work underway to improve infrastructure and make sure Britain has a network fit for the 21st century.
Witnessing the local pride and the sense of anticipation from people who will reap the benefits is the most enjoyable part of my job.
- the business that will now be able to invest
- the mum who finds her narrow street is quieter and safer for her children
- or the job-seeker who finds a new employment opportunity within easy travelling time
The Combe Valley Way only opened in December.
But it is great to see for myself the positive impact it has made to the seafront and indeed the whole town.
Ending years of frustration for local people.
And providing far quicker journeys across the region.
Bexhill and Hastings waited a long time for the road.
And now it’s here, it’s already helping communities previously blighted by congestion.
The Combe Valley Way should encourage economic regeneration across the area.
That’s why we put over £50 million into it.
And that’s why this government is determined to invest in the transport infrastructure in this country.
But the new road is just the start of what we are doing in this region and throughout the country as a whole.
Across the UK we are investing £15 billion over the next 5 years.
Which will pay for 100 projects to introduce similar improvements for areas across England.
This will include capacity improvements along the A27 to build the dual carriageway Arundel bypass.
And create a far better road around Worthing, Lancing and East of Lewes.
All this work will benefit Hastings by creating faster, more reliable journeys along this key south coast corridor.
So I’m pleased to come here at a time when real progress is being been made on improving your road links.
But you will want to hear about what can happen next for this area.
This morning I travelled up and down the A21 to see the Kippings Cross section for myself.
Around 35,000 vehicles use the road every day, so the importance of the A21 to East Sussex and Hastings is clear.
It’s a crucial link between the M25 and the south coast.
Of course, £70 million of improvements to the road are already underway, with the dualling of the Tonbridge to Pembury section due to open next year.
And as the Chancellor confirmed this week, the process for preparing for the next period of strategic road investment starting in 2020 has now been announced.
It means that the investment in our road network will continue.
And that we can enter the research stage for delivering the next wave.
Of course, that research takes time.
But it is vital for ensuring that when we invest in roads, taxpayers’ money is being used for maximum value and to achieve the best possible designs.
So between now and March 2017, Highways England will be reviewing the UK’s entire strategic road network.
To see what road improvements we can make to best overall effect.
The public, local authorities, businesses and politicians will all get the opportunity to have their say – including in Hastings.
Then, by the end of 2017, Highways England will present its findings to the government.
We will consult on that plan those too – providing another chance for people to have their say.
And we will make the final announcements on in 2019.
Of course, comprehensive improvements to the southern section of the A21 would be a very large undertaking.
Because of the scale of that proposal, the A21 may well be a candidate for a future strategic study by the government.
Such studies are used to examine the very biggest challenges facing the road network.
They have been used to look at, for example, links across the Northern Pennines.
But most importantly for me, my visit today has ensured that when I work with Highways England, and when we take those final investment decisions in 2019, I will be in possession of the full facts on the ground.
And so in conclusion, as the announcements the government has made this week have made clear, transport investment is a cornerstone of this government’s plan for economic growth.
That isn’t to provide impressive-looking figures on a spreadsheet.
It is about allowing towns like Hastings to achieve their potential.
And that’s a prospect everyone here can support.