Cheltenham's MP, Alex Chalk, has secured a commitment that funding earmarked for Cheltenham Spa railway station improvements will be saved. On Wednesday Mr Chalk brought together key figures in Parliament including the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, and representatives from Great Western Railway, Network Rail and the Cheltenham Development Taskforce to review the investment plans for Cheltenham Spa railway station.
The meeting follows the publication of the Hendy Review into Network Rail's railway station improvement programme, which has resulted in the cancellation of a number of undeliverable schemes across the country. Mr Chalk brought the key figures together to make the case for funding for Cheltenham's station to be saved.
The meeting was successful, with the Minister committing to funding tranches set to benefit Cheltenham in the coming years. This includes £701,000 of Station Community Programme Funding to build 70 new car parking spaces at the station and ease pressure for commuters and residents living nearby, as well as nearly £2m of funding from the Access for All programme required to improve disabled access at the station. The Minister outlined her desire to engage with local community and disability groups to ensure these plans are sufficient for their needs. In addition, a scheme designed to improve cycle access to the station remains committed, with the necessary funding ring-fenced by the Department for Transport.
Looking further forward, £1.495 million of matched funding is available from Gloucestershire First, the Local Enterprise Partnership to overhaul the station forecourt and a comprehensive business case for these plans will be submitted by GWR in November, with the view to funding being released in early 2017.
Great Western Railway are also drawing up a detailed masterplan for the station, which will see major improvements to the ticket hall area, a new cafe and the addition of new high quality retail space. £750,000 of Government funding has already been secured for this project, with £75,000 set to be drawn down by GWR immediately to undertake detailed design work or fund initial modest improvements.
Speaking following the meeting in Westminster, Mr Chalk said: ‘’With the Hendy Review threatening rail projects around the country, I was determined to fight Cheltenham’s corner. I believe our circumstances make ours a special case, and that’s why I insisted on meeting the Rail Minister and getting all the parties round the table. I am pleased that the Minister agreed to secure the funding for Cheltenham. It’s sorely needed, and this is good news for Cheltenham.''
The head of Cheltenham's Development Task Force, Jeremy Williamson, who was present at the meeting, added: ''Rail connectivity is a key feature for business growth so it is pleasing that our MP has fought our corner to protect funding. We look forward to further collaboration with the rail industry to turn this funding into tangible differences at the station.''