Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
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Improving transport connectivity between the nations of the UK - consensus and coordination, funding and infrastructure, and the Union Connectivity Review

Morning, Tuesday, 24th August 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference focuses on priorities for improving transport infrastructure and connectivity across the UK.

The conference will be an opportunity to discuss the UK Government’s Union Connectivity Review, which is examining options for greater transport connectivity between the four nations of the UK across transport modes, including road, aviation and sea - with recommendations due for publication in summer 2021.

Areas for discussion include:

  • the Union Connectivity Review - examining its ambition, the potential scope of its recommendations, and issues for implementation
  • consensus and collaboration - assessing the varying priorities for connectivity across the nations of the UK, and the role of regional and local stakeholders
  • implementation - key issues for infrastructure development, planning, and funding
  • road networks - policy and design, reliability and priorities for development, and enabling the system to enhance cross-nation trade and achieve low-carbon transport goals
  • rail transport - addressing barriers to cross-border connectivity, dovetailing with regional transport plans, and strategies around economic growth and business ties
  • air and maritime - latest thinking on how capacity can be boosted and reinforced across the UK, as well as reduce barriers and differences between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Key areas for discussion:

The Union Connectivity Review ambition:

  • priorities for the potential scope of recommendations - and what is needed to support multi-nation transport guidance, as well as set ambitious and achievable goals
  • enabling productivity gains:
    • cross-border transport capacity - looking at issues and barriers, and acting on nation-specific challenges
    • achieving policy consensus - linking nation-specific ambitions with overarching transport goals, and the pathway to reaching agreement between national governments
    • reducing barriers to action - options for devolution policy and regulatory reform
    • priorities for innovation - planning ahead for future transport pressures, and the role of guidance from non-governmental bodies 
  • supporting business - how should Review recommendations be tailored to:
    • enable greater connectivity, and transport services that will have the most impact on enhancing trade and job growth
    • reduce commuting times and barriers to freight and commercial traffic
    • boost cross-border business confidence and expansion
  • transport infrastructure policy - how can the Review best support:
    • improvements needed in rail, road, aviation and maritime connectivity, maintenance
    • safely restarting sector activity post-COVID

National road network policy and development:

  • more effectively coordinating the UK’s road network:
    • cross-border trade - enhancement, and working towards decarbonisation goals
    • strategic infrastructure planning - assessing priorities, and identifying design barriers and shortfalls in road capacity, as well as boosting network reliability
  • economic opportunities:
    • priorities for infrastructure and planning - how best to alleviate congestion and futureproofing against capacity pressures
    • scale of freight services - enabling an increase, and cross-border options for supporting more volume
    • road maintenance - approaches and quality improvements between England, Wales and Scotland
  • road decarbonisation - examining steps, including cross-government approaches to electric vehicle charging networks, and expanding the options for cross-border public transport

Cross-border rail transport and connectivity:

  • development strategies - dovetailing national government and regional transport plans, addressing funding for large-scale improvements, and better coordinating long-term design common goals
  • cross-border connections and capacity - opportunities for combining regional transport and economic objectives with Scotland, and the next steps for delivery, including:
    • northern capacity expansion and the impact of Northern Powerhouse Rail
    • boosting physical cross-border connections, as well as relationships between border economies, businesses and planning authorities
  • high-speed rail - the scope for extension and cross-border connection with Scotland

Freight and non-land modes of transport:

  • GB-NI transport priorities:
    • priorities for boosting aviation and airport capacity, routes and user numbers
    • scaling up maritime services and investment for increasing travel frequency across the Irish Sea
    • large-scale and innovative approaches to connectivity enhancements, such as creating a tunnel link between GB and NI
  • trade:
    • mitigating barriers and better connecting GB-NI economies and communities
    • new approaches to easing port congestion, and expanding alternative cross-nation freight options
    • next steps for policy and industry sectors for use of improved connectivity to widen business partnerships and exchange

A scan of relevant developments:

  • the Union Connectivity Review:
    • examining options for greater transport connectivity between the four nations of the UK across transport modes, including road, aviation and sea, with recommendations due for publication in Summer 2021
    • Interim Report - March 2021 - laying out the background behind the Review, the methodology it uses, preliminary transport and economic assessments, and that the Review will recommend the creation of a UK Strategic Transport Network
  • Budget 2021 - eight new freeports in England will begin operations by the end of 2021, with ongoing discussions around the use of freeports in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland taking place between the UK Government and the devolved administrations
  • the impact of Coronavirus - the Review will be proposing recommendations in the context of travel and work patterns that have been significantly altered by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • the National Infrastructure Strategy - outlining core infrastructure plans up to 2050, with significant funding allocated for rail, road, and areas of UK-wide intersecting transport infrastructure, with pledges for areas of devolved governance to receive commensurate funding
  • the second National Transport Strategy for Scotland - including priorities for transport modernisation, addressing Scotland’s deficiencies in travel access and options, and ensuring development leads to economic growth and support for Scottish communities
  • the Wales Transport Strategy - key priorities centred around expanding regional connectivity, addressing shortfalls in transport access, and developing low-carbon rollout of transport infrastructure and solutions
  • All-Island Strategic Rail Review - the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government have announced a review of rail transport connectivity across the Island of Ireland, examining connectivity between urban centres and how rail can support regional development
  • Increasing connectivity across the UK - using financial settlements with local governments to boost connectivity, including through a grant of £50,000 to the Isle of Wight local authority, for the purpose of reviewing its connectivity with mainland Great Britain
  • planned Northern Ireland-Scotland tunnel - industry proposals for a tunnel underneath the Irish Sea, connecting Larne with Stranraer, with potential further rail connections to Carlisle:
    • the Review is expected to announce a feasibility study into these proposals
    • the Prime Minister’s proposal for a roundabout connection on the Isle of Man, serving as a meeting point of tunnels between Northern Ireland, Scotland and England

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Competition and Markets Authority; DAERA, NI; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Transport; the Government Legal Department; the Office of Rail and Road; Transport Scotland; and the Welsh Government.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials involved in this area of public policy, together with other stakeholders from across the UK transport sector including public transport operators and their advisors, airlines and aviation groups, urban and city planners, local government and community leaders, infrastructure and logistics firms, consumer bodies, researchers from academia and higher education, as well as reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Bridget Rosewell

Commissioner, National Infrastructure Commission

Keynote Speaker

Bridget Rosewell

Commissioner, National Infrastructure Commission


Rob Roberts MP

Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mersey Dee North Wales

Wendy Chamberlain MP

Chief Whip and Spokesperson for Scotland, Wales and Work and Pensions, Liberal Democrats


Liz Crowhurst

Head of Infrastructure, CBI

Tim Foster

Interim Strategy and Programme Director, Transport for the North

Professor Mark Barry

Professor of Practice in Connectivity, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University

Robbie Owen

Partner and Head of Infrastructure Planning and Government Affairs, Pinsent Masons

Richard Leonard

Head of Network Strategy and Development, Highways England

Gareth Williams

Head of Policy, Scottish Council for Development and Industry

Justin Atkin

Representative - UK and Ireland, Port of Antwerp