A ground-breaking study published today by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) shows that traffic congestion in the region could cost businesses and residents £2 billion each year by 2021.

Launched at the region's second Transport Summit held in Newmarket today the Transport Economic Evidence Study (TEES) for the first time allows the region to understand the economic costs of traffic congestion and where it is having the greatest impact.

It concludes that the cost of congestion across the six counties of the East of England was £1 billion in 2003 and, unless radical joint action is taken by all partners in the region, that this could double to just over £2 billion by 2021.

Nationally, this is the first regional study of its kind that looks not only at the cost of congestion but also where constraints on the transport network are causing the most economic damage and, importantly, what should be done.

The four main findings from the TEES undertaken by Steer Davies Gleave are:

 - the cost of congestion occurring in the East of England region is set to double to over £2 billion per annum by 2021 (within this, the direct costs to business productivity, the equivalent of Gross Domestic Product, is £1.3 billion per annum by 2021)

 - there are particular hotspots where congestion is causing most damage to the regional and national economy - 85 per cent of the costs of congestion are borne in the region's seven ‘engines of growth' identified in the regional economic strategy

- there will be significant economic benefits from targeted road capacity improvements in some parts of the region, however the economic returns from this approach diminish once the key constraints on economic productivity have been relieved

 - new road infrastructure alone will not solve the congestion problem. The study shows that measures to manage demand for travel by road and investment in additional rail capacity will increasingly do more to reduce the cost of congestion in the long term -  for example through exploring various forms of demand management, traffic management measures like motorway hard shoulder running and longer trains.

The region can now use the study to: boost the business case for increased investment in the region's transport network; target investment to have the greatest economic impact; and support work to secure new sources of funding to bring forward transport investments that might otherwise not happen for some time.

Richard Ellis, chair of EEDA, said:

"We now have the economic evidence to support the East of England's case for continued investment in the transport infrastructure.  

"The study is important not just in the region but nationally as well because the East of England is one of only three regional net contributors to UK plc.  Maintained investment the region's transport network is therefore vital to the national economy and to help businesses compete in a global marketplace.

"Investment in transport is critical to supporting the regional and national economy but equally working smarter and managing demand will be key to unlocking economic growth.

"It now time for all of us to get behind our regional Transport Campaign to lobby for a more reliable, effective and safer transport network for benefit of all that live, work and invest in the East of England."

Minister for the East of England, Barbara Follett said:

"We are determined to get the best from our road network so that motorists in our region have reliable journey times on roads that are safe and well-managed.  Congestion is frustrating and has serious consequences for the economy and the environment.

"I welcome the contributions to this workshop today. In our region we need to develop and implement more innovative approaches to the way we use our major roads. This includes measures like opening the hard shoulder when traffic is at its heaviest, alongside some conventional widening where that makes best sense.

"In July, Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Transport confirmed that work on the A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton widening scheme will start in 2010, and funding for improvements to the M25 Junction 30 near Lakeside shopping centre and a new A421 dual carriageway linking Bedford to the M1.

"We need to be smart about new investment in our infrastructure and I look forward to passing on some good ideas and suggestions that arise from our work here today."

Richard Bindless, Director East of England Business Group (EEBG), said:

"For years, transport infrastructure inadequacies have held back this region's economy, damaging the competitiveness and profitability of our company base. This study provides a sound basis for targeting investment to greatest effect and also provides a strong rationale for addressing the problem of congestion in new ways."

The second Transport Summit received a presentation on the results of the TEES. Delegates were asked for their reaction to the study findings and to advise on how the results can best be used and by whom, and what the region's next steps should be in taking this work forward. Further details of the outcomes of the summit will available in due course.