Rail Industry Focus

04.09.19

Cardiff’s Commuter Revolution

Source: RTM August/September

Revolutionising the way people travel is at the heart of Cardiff Council’s £1bn transport vision. Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff Council, explains how the new approach will steer people onto rail, bus and bike as his city faces up to the challenge of being the UK’s fastest-growing city outside London.

Cardiff has always been a great place to live. We are fortunate to have a city blessed with beautiful parkland, a vibrant centre home to one of the world’s great stadiums, a striking castle vista, a glorious maze of Edwardian arcades, and a young and energised social scene which creates a buzz that electrifies the city.

We have a thriving cultural scene too which is exactly what you might expect from one of Europe’s youngest capital cities. All of this and we are surrounded by incredible coast and mountain scenery within striking distance of city boundaries.

People really like Cardiff, and in a way, Cardiff really likes people. It is a city designed to make you feel at home. Big enough to offer everything you need, yet small and friendly enough to allow you to feel a part of it.

Little wonder then that people, companies and businesses want to settle here or that we are now the fastest-growing city in the UK outside of London.

As leader of Cardiff Council I have seen Wales’ capital city grow, develop and flourish. Over the past decade, 35,000 new people have made Cardiff their home and more than 100,000 commuters come here daily to work and shop.

But of course, all of this growth brings challenges. We have a road network built for 200,000 people while our population is heading for 400,000. Already we can see problems on the network. Allow even more cars and we are sure to gridlock the city with all the inherent health, pollution and economic problems that brings.

Welsh Government, through Transport for Wales, has an ambitious programme to establish a Cardiff Region Metro which will electrify the Core Valley Lines and provide enhanced train frequencies with new rolling stock, including tram-trains that will be capable of running on new on-street alignments. These will include tri-mode vehicles enabling on-street running through urban areas using battery power, eliminating polluting diesel and expensive overhead power line equipment.

In addition, bus and rail interchange facilities will be improved and multi-modal integrated ticketing introduced.

I truly believe that transport makes or breaks cities. This is why we have brought forward a 10-Year Transport Vision - with rail at its heart. Our vision meets what Cardiff needs today, tomorrow and in the future. Crucially it builds on TfW’s Metro plans, which are a great start, but which we believe need to go even further.

It is why we need to begin a discussion with government, people and partners about where and how we choose to invest if we are to build a transport system fit for Wales’ capital city.

Central to the vision is the establishment of the Cardiff Cross Rail and the creation of a new Metro service. Cross Rail will connect commuters and visitors to the city centre and, crucially, connect communities to each other. It will see the east and west of the capital linked by passenger rail through the city centre’s business district, making jobs easier to access for some of our most deprived communities.

The Cross Rail vision builds on the Metro proposals using existing heavy rail passenger lines, upgraded paths through Canton Sidings, new on-street alignments and the underused Cardiff Dock rail network. This will establish an east –west link with turn up and go frequencies and new stations serving strategic housing sites in the west of the city (Plas Dwr East and West), Cardiff Bay (Pierhead St, Roath Dock) and communities to the east (Ocean Way, Splott-Tremorfa, and Newport Rd).

It will also connect Cardiff to the wider communities of South Wales taking off our roads some of those 80,000 daily car commuters who travel in from outside the city boundaries. It will help free up space for new cycle ways and bus lanes, fundamentally altering the way people travel into and across our city, creating a greener, healthier and more sustainable Cardiff. A less congested, less polluted and less car-reliant Cardiff.

Supporting the newly-established Metro will be additions and amendments to existing rail services. New track will create a Cardiff Circle Line, connecting it to the Taff Vale Line and delivering a light rail, orbital route in the city with links to our park and rides. It will offer residents and visitors public transport choices unknown for generations.

While rail is at the heart of the vision, freeing up road space, it has to seamlessly connect to other transport options. So a single ticketing system will allow people to travel freely between rail, bus and Nextbike without the need for multiple ticket purchases.

This is why we are looking towards rail in our time of need. We recognise this will cost a lot – we estimate £1bn – but to support the economic engine of the country, Cardiff and Wales simply can’t afford not to deliver it. Our proposals could see roads freed up, the capital able to grow and prosper, while remaining that city that people really like, and a city that really likes people.

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