Futuristic plans to make travelling around Cardiff easier slammed as a ‘pie in the sky’
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Futuristic plans to make travelling around Cardiff easier have been slammed as a “pie in the sky” idea with no details on costs.
An intelligent transport system could mean huge upgrades to how people move around the city.
This could include a new traffic control room, traffic lights giving priority to buses on certain main roads, and a new travel app with live data on the city’s transport network.
Cardiff council will soon consult the public on its plans but key questions were raised during an environmental scrutiny committee on Monday, March 7.
It’s unclear how much each part of the intelligent transport system would cost, but more details should become clear as business cases are drawn up for individual projects, like the control room. The council could source funding from the Welsh Government or Westminster.
Councillor Ramesh Patel, chair of the scrutiny committee, said more details were needed on costs.
He said: “If you’ve got no idea of the cost, it’s very difficult to get sources of funding. Who’s going to take a risk with anyone if they don’t know the cost? You need some sort of costing which you have to start the project off with. If you don’t have that then it’s almost like a pie in the sky idea.”
Cllr Caro Wild, cabinet member for strategic planning and transport, said it would be “irresponsible” to draw up business cases with forecasted costs before consulting the public.
He said: “This is a stage before that. This is about going out to consultation on ideas before the business cases have even been drawn up. We need to consult the public on the wider ideas and engage with partners, and business cases will come off the back of that. This is about looking at the different principles.
“It would be irresponsible for us to predetermine what those things might be at this point and start drawing up business cases with costs on them.”
‘Financial details weren’t given’
The council’s transport department has begun exploring how much it would cost to build a new traffic control room, but these financial details weren’t given to the scrutiny committee.
Another main project will be piloting a ‘smart corridor’ on the A470 to give priority to buses, with bus lanes and by changing traffic light signals. The initial pilot will focus on the junctions with Caedelyn Road and Tyn-y-Parc Road, before potentially being rolled out along the whole of the road from the city centre to Junction 33 of the M4.
Smart corridors would aim to make getting the bus into the city centre more reliable and reduce congestion at pinch points. Cameras or traffic counters would monitor the road and feed into how long traffic lights last at each junction — similar to how the new cycleway traffic lights monitor for cyclists waiting, with infrared sensors that turn red if they spot someone.
Questions were also raised regarding the council’s plans to develop a new travel app, which would provide live data on traffic and congestion in Cardiff, with the estimated time to get somewhere by car, train, bus or bike. Cllr Emma Sandrey asked how the app would be different to Google Maps, which offers similar features.
The council’s new app could include features like fare prices for buses or the carbon footprint of car journeys, with an emphasis on nudging users to change how they travel. This could include incentives encouraging app users not to drive cars, according to Jason Dixon, operational manager for transport development and network management.
A congestion charge is still on the cards, which could see drivers from outside Cardiff charged £2 a day to use the roads in the city. The charges would encourage people to catch a bus or train instead to get into the city, while also raising money to fund improvements to public transport services. The council is still exploring with consultants on charging options.
Cllr Wild said: “Cities around the whole of the UK are looking at this as well and realising they don’t have enough money to invest in public transport. The UK Government is extremely concerned now about the drop off in tax revenue with the move from diesel and petrol vehicles to electric vehicles, and is itself looking at forms of road user charging.”
Next year a trial is due to start on integrated ticketing — where people pay one fare for a journey using both train and bus, by tapping a card at the start and then tapping again at the end, similar to in London. This trial would take place between Cardiff and Newport, Mr Dixon said, who added the hurdles to integrated ticketing were much bigger than initially expected.
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