Major changes proposed to double the use of buses in Cardiff
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Major changes are being considered to encourage more commuters in Cardiff to travel by bus.
In 2018, one in ten commuters in Cardiff caught the bus into work. By 2030, the council wants this to increase to one in five.
The nine changes under consideration include finally finishing the bus station in the city centre, cheaper fares, more bus lanes, and new buses which emit much less carbon dioxide.
This summer Cardiff Council will consult the public on its upcoming new bus strategy, to capture views on the proposed changes and increasing journeys made by bus.
Plans were revealed in a recently published cabinet report, which said: “Bus numbers in Cardiff, as elsewhere in Wales and the UK generally, have been falling for many years.
“The deregulated system in place since 1986 has led to uncoordinated services and fares, making bus travel an unnecessarily complicated business.”
Over the last decade, car ownership in Cardiff has increased by 10 per cent, with an extra 13,000 vehicles. Bus ridership has dropped by 20 per cent in Wales, but stayed the same in Cardiff, mostly due to a growing population.
Another challenge is coronavirus. In April last year, the number of people on public transport fell to 10 per cent compared to before the pandemic. This has recently risen to about 60 per cent. Social distancing rules also mean that buses still can’t operate at full capacity.
The council’s cabinet is due to approve the draft plan on July 15. More details of the plans are likely to be revealed next Tuesday, July 6, when the environmental scrutiny committee will quiz council bosses on their nine-point plan.
First up is finishing the bus station in the city centre, known as the Cardiff Central Interchange. This has faced long delays so far and won’t be ready until 2023. Other similar projects include a smaller bus interchange at Waungron Road, buses going to the planned Cardiff Parkway station in St Mellons, and a park-and-ride service from Junction 33.
Second is more bus lanes on major routes in and out of Cardiff. Council bosses think smart bus corridors could see “more targeted segregation and technological improvements”. The third change is similar: more space given over to buses within the city centre, away from cars.
Fourth is making it easier to use both buses and trains on the same journey, potentially using the same ticket. Like in London, integrated ticketing would mean passengers buying one ticket which they could use on several services. More bike stands at stations form part of this too.
Fifth is cheaper fares: potentially including a £1 flat fare, off-peak reductions, and specific offers for certain groups of people.
Sixth is a technical, legal issue. Currently the Welsh Government has given a lot of emergency funding for buses during the pandemic, but this won’t last forever. New upcoming legislation and how bus services are owned and operated will be looked at.
Seventh is improving the customer experience. This step is unclear, but the cabinet report states: “Encouraging a social and cultural shift to people choosing to travel by bus will require organisational coordination of marketing and better, more identifiable branding.”
Eighth is reducing the carbon emissions coming from buses. Currently most of the buses in Cardiff are old diesel vehicles, which are not the most efficient or environmentally friendly. Council bosses said cleaner buses were needed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Ninth and last is making buses cheaper for pupils travelling to school. This would match up with similar plans to encourage the number of pupils walking and cycling to school.
After the consultation ends, the cabinet will consider the results in October or November before setting out a final plan for the council’s bus strategy.
A spokesperson for Cardiff Council said: “The environmental scrutiny committee will be carrying out pre-decision scrutiny on Cardiff’s draft bus strategy next Tuesday, which sets out the council’s nine strategic moves on how to improve bus travel in Cardiff.
“If a decision is taken by cabinet to approve for the consultation to begin on July 15, a public information pack will be prepared and we will start to engage with the public, our partners and stakeholders on our plans.”