January newsletter – looking forward to the year ahead 

As we head into 2024, we take a look back at our highlights from 2023 and a peek at what the year ahead holds for the Western Gateway STB, including important upcoming dates for your diary. 

Freight

2023 was another busy year for us, as we started the year with more freight forum meetings for our rail, road, and maritime and aviation sub-groups. We are now into our second year of running these regular forums with our neighbouring STB Peninsula Transport, and they are crucial to enabling us to deliver the interventions prioritised in our South West Freight Strategy. Our freight forums next meet in February 2024, on the 5th (aviation and maritime), 7th (rail) and 8th (road). Please email us for details. 

Our South West Freight Strategy monitoring report published in September documented the progress we’d made in the year since the launch of our freight strategy. Around half of the interventions were recommended for development in the short term, so we were delighted to share that around 60% had been started in year one. 

One of our South West Freight Strategy interventions to sponsor a load matching pilot is now underway. The first of ten operators from across the South West are now receiving training on how to use the Haulage Exchange load matching system. This system allows for trucks to minimise empty running by matching them with possible loads to pick up, reducing costs and saving mileage. Funded by ourselves and Peninsula Transport, this is a one year trial aimed at small to medium size operators who may not have been able to justify the cost of an annual membership fee or had the time to research and assess the investment benefit to their organisation.

Strategic Transport Plan 

In April we launched our Making the right choices engagement to help us develop our long-term transport strategy. Thanks to our stakeholders sharing their views on what our transport priorities should be in our region, we are now working on our Strategic Transport Plan to 2050.

Rural mobility

We continue to work towards piloting new approaches to transport in the South West’s rural communities, as set out in our joint South West Rural Mobility Strategy with Peninsula Transport. We will be hosting a rural mobility pilots stakeholder engagement event on Friday 19th January 2024 in Taunton – please find the details here.

STB Conference 

Our STB Conference in June showcased the important role England’s seven STBs play individually and collaboratively in tacking a range of pressing transport issues, and how we are all working together to rethink long-term transport solutions. You can watch videos of the day here.

This year our conference is on Wednesday 28th February 2024 in Manchester – view the programme and register to attend here.

Carbon baseline and forecasting tool 

In May we shared our developing new carbon baseline and forecasting tool with our local authorities. This transparent and user-adjustable tool can model the effects that different interventions and measures could have on transport carbon emissions within our region, making it a valuable asset in the development of our emerging Strategic Transport Plan as well as for Local Transport Plans developed by our region’s local transport authorities.

Making the case for rural investment

Also in May we published Making the case for rural investment, setting out the challenges facing England’s rural communities when it comes to funding and levelling up. The report suggests key interventions needed to bring about change in rural mobility investment, along with the roles government, local authorities and STBs should play in helping deliver these.

Better Transport Week 

We were delighted to be an official partner for Campaign for Better Transport’s first-ever Better Transport Week in June. This engaging and positive week focused on the importance of sustainable transport and featured a range of themed days that gave us a great opportunity to share our support along with our work on cycling, coaches and more. This year Better Transport Week will run from Monday 17th to Sunday 23rd June 2024.

Coaches

We launched England’s first sub-national coach strategy in August, setting out the key challenges facing coach services in our region and identifying opportunities for improvement. Following the publication of our South West Coach Strategy AECOM has been commissioned to take our work into its next phase: setting up our South West Coach Forum bringing together private and public stakeholders to address these challenges, and undertaking a feasibility study on one of three potential new coach routes as identified in our strategy. Our first of these coach forums will meet on Thursday 1st February 2024 – please email us for details.   

Alternative Fuels for Freight

Together with Peninsula Transport we launched our joint Alternative Fuels for Road Freight Strategy in November, identifying how best to support our region’s freight and logistics sector in the uptake of alternative fuels. Twenty-four freight and logistics clusters have been identified as potential alternative fuel refuelling locations, with 11 in the Western Gateway area. The next step will include further investigations to identify the practicalities around delivering alternative fuels refuelling points at these sites, with a view to then helping facilitate their delivery through working with operators, energy suppliers and local authorities, to ensure the development of a cohesive refuelling network.

Finally, a reminder that we launched on LinkedIn in July – so you can now keep up with our latest news there as well as following us on X, formerly Twitter, and by visiting our website. We also look forward to keeping you up-to-date with our work in these regular newsletters during the year ahead.