To enter into a licence agreement with Network Rail and Great Western Railway in order to extend the former Honeybourne Line
Decision Maker: Cabinet Member Economic Development, Culture, Tourism & Wellbeing
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: Yes
To enter into a licence agreement with Network Rail (NR) and Great Western Railway (GWR) in order to extend the former Honeybourne Line. The extension will be granted to the council (CBC) on land owned by Network Rail and parts that are leased to Great Western Railway. Under the terms of the licence agreement the council will have to comply with certain conditions and restrictions to ensure effective management and maintenance of the extended section.
Reasons for the decision:
The former Honeybourne Line runs through the heart of Cheltenham. This ‘hidden gem’ of Cheltenham runs from the underpass at Cheltenham Spa railway station and Queens Road to Tommy Taylors Lane, Pittville Park and Wymans Brook as well as branching off towards the town centre following the River Chelt. It is well used by cyclists, pedestrians, commuters, dog walkers and joggers alike.
Gloucestershire County Council in their capacity as the Highways Authority have developed a cyclepath along the A40 connecting Gloucester with Cheltenham. The proposed extension will connect the A40 via Shelburne Road and the railway station car park. It will be the second phase of the redevelopment of the railway station by GWR. Construction of the extension is likely to start in March/April 2023 and is due to be completed in September/October 2023.
A small part of the new cyclepath will be shared with NR’s tenant who occupy Pioneer House. Their car park is at the back of the building and so at times vehicles will will cross the cyclepath. This will be managed by signage, road markings and CCTV.
The project is fully funded by GWR and Gloucestershire County Council. CBC will have long-term maintenance costs as to comply with the terms of the licence agreement, for example litter picking, sweeping, clearing vegetation, removing graffiti and winterisation. The Honeybourne Line is already managed by the council’s Green Space team and UBICO. The council will also be responsible for the erection of screening if train drivers get confused with red lights on bicycles or if there are any changes to statutory regulations. Any associated costs will be covered as follows:
- Year 1 maintenance costs (2023/24) – are absorbed within existing green spaces maintenance budget.
- In future years, any long term additional maintenance costs, including lighting will be dealt with as part of the budget setting process for 2024/25 but will look to be incorporated into the existing base budget in the first instance in line with the 2021 Cabinet decision.
- As per the screening element, CBC has negotiated with NR/GWR who have reduced the commitment from the length of the cycleway to a much smaller targeted area. At this time, it cannot be confirmed whether this is an actual cost and is being treated as a contingent liability. Once we have certainty on the one-off or ongoing costs these will need to be put through the appropriate approval process in line with Financial Regulations.
Negotiations on this license have been significant and risk assessment undertaken to test and manage CBC’s liabilities.
The extension will benefit people living, working and visiting Cheltenham. It will help connect the cyclepath between Gloucester and Cheltenham allowing cyclists to have a dedicated cycle lane avoiding the inherent risk of sharing roads with cars and lorries. It will also link the Golden Valley Development with the MX site and the Town as a whole.
The Honeybourne Line extension is an example of working collaboratively with external partners. It will contribute to the council’s Climate Agenda by
enabling more people to walk and cycle, reduce the number of cars on the roads and provide cleaner air.
Alternative options considered:
The project is a long standing aspiration for the council and the cycle community which will help connect key transport nodes, link communities, facilitate more walking and cycling and contribute to our climate agenda. This is probably the only opportunity for an extension. There are no alternative options available.
CBC has not entered into this license agreement lightly given the complexity of ownerships and site context. There has been significant negotiation across all parties. This decision follows the earlier Cabinet member decision (29/07/21) which confirmed lead cabinet member support for “the Honeybourne Line Missing Link project being delivered and fully funded by Great Western Railway (GWR), with CBC bearing the ongoing negligible maintenance costs. These costs will be negligible due to economies of scale with contractors already in place to cleanse the existing line.”
Other reasons / organisations consulted
All parties have been heavily involved in the development of the proposed extension and all can see the benefits to the borough in respect of modal shift opportunities, contribution to climate change mitigation and improving access to the railway station.
Gloucestershire County Council
Great Western Railway
Green spaces team
Director of Finance & Assets
Cabinet member for Economic Development, Culture, Tourism and Wellbeing
Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member Finance, Assets and Regeneration
Contact: Simon Hodges, Senior Asset Management Surveyor.
Publication date: 21/02/2023
Date of decision: 17/02/2023
Effective from: 01/03/2023