February newsletter

This month we have updates on our rail work looking at introducing hourly services for the Heart of Wessex Line and capacity improvements at Cheltenham Spa. Plus find out how we are working to help move more freight onto rail, reduce empty running lorries and develop our alternative fuels for freight strategy.

We also have news about workshops we have held to help develop our latest strategies for electric vehicles and coaches, along with upcoming dates for our next freight forums. And find out how you can register now for the STB conference in June.

Developing rail cases

We’ve just signed a Basic Services Agreement with Network Rail to produce the business case for hourly services on the Heart of Wessex Line. Various timetable and infrastructure options including new and extended passing loops will be considered, with the report expected in September 2023. 

At the same time Network Rail are continuing to develop the case for capacity improvements at Cheltenham Spa station. Different options including a new bay platform are being tested followed by a study to understand the wider network and potentially considerable performance benefits. This work will be completed by June 2023.

Coaches and EV workshops

Last week we held a well-attended first workshop on our developing coaches strategy for the Western Gateway STB region, to review the draft report and gather feedback from stakeholders including coach operators. There was an overall agreement that the report was a good step forward in raising the profile and potential of coaches as mode shift alternatives to the private car to help with decarbonisation.

Our first workshop on electric vehicles was also held in January, and we now look forward to liaising with the Peninsula Transport STB to seek opportunities for joint working.

Freight: dates for your diary

Working with the Peninsula Transport STB we have commissioned a study into potential locations for intermodal rail freight terminals.  Fifteen sites across the South West will be looked at, working closely with Network Rail and Great British Railways to identify the best ones to take forward. Moving more freight onto rail will have significant carbon reduction benefits. 

For road freight we are going to fund a pilot match loading project. Our South West freight strategy revealed up to 22% of all lorry movements across the Peninsula and Western Gateway are running empty so the potential for carrying return loads is great, with again significant benefits for carbon emissions.

We look forward to the next meetings of our freight forum sub-groups this month:

  • Aviation and maritime – Tuesday 14th February
  • Rail – Wednesday 15th February
  • Roads –  Thursday 16th February 

Following these will be the freight steering group, which meets in March.  

Alternative fuels for freight strategy

Following our Board meeting in December 2022 we have commissioned an additional piece of work on the joint Peninsula Transport and Western Gateway STB alternative fuels for freight strategy.

This will look at areas less well served by the potential network of electric charging and hydrogen refuelling stations identified by the strategy following concerns there were gaps in the network. The revised strategy will be completed by March 2023.

Register now for the STB conference

Following last year’s successful inaugural STB conference, all seven of England’s sub-national transport bodies will once again come together to showcase their work to develop an integrated, resilient and low carbon transport infrastructure.

Taking place at the Vox in Birmingham on Monday 5th June, the conference will feature a range of speakers from the across the STBs, government agencies and the private sector.

Also this month

As well as regular newsletter updates direct to your inbox, you can keep up to date with our news on Twitter @WestGatewaySTB.

This month we posted news about the £2 cap on single bus fares until March 31st, work beginning on the £1m scheme to enhance Chippenham station and the launch of the Department for Transport’s £7 million tech fund to decarbonise freight and boost innovation.

We also shared the good news that Gloucestershire County Council has been awarded more than £500,000 to help encourage more people to walk and cycle and South Gloucestershire Council’s funding award from the Department for Transport’s Decarbonising Local Roads competition.

You can keep up to date with all our work by following us on Twitter @WestGatewaySTB and subscribing to our newsletters by emailing westerngateway_stb@westofengland-ca.gov.uk