Concerns have been raised over plans to relocate Cardiff’s bus station from its position beside the city’s main railway station. Rhodri Clark reports

The future of Cardiff’s central transport interchange is uncertain, with the site of the current bus station earmarked for other uses.

Last month, BBC Wales unveiled plans for a new headquarters building on part of the bus station site, north of Cardiff Central railway station. No buses are visible in artist’s impressions of the area. The plans were welcomed by Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones and by Phil Bale, leader of Cardiff council.

The BBC said the new HQ depended on the wider Capital Square development, which included relocating the bus station. Council officers have advised that the bus station would need to close by June 2015 for the BBC development to begin, after which there would be a period “without a dedicated bus facility”. Public consultation will begin in August or September.

This month, Network Rail proposed a new Cardiff Central station building which would incorporate the historic Great Western Railway concourse and extend the frontage closer to the BBC building. The structure, slated for Control Period 6 (2019-2024), would provide approximately 40,000 sq ft of retail space on two floors and become a destination in its own right, as well as improving the travel experience for passengers.

The new bus station will be either on the site of the current NCP car park, north-east of the railway station, or south of the railway station. Network Rail’s proposals include a 98ft-wide public thoroughfare, lined with retail units, beneath the track and platforms, improving pedestrian access between the south side and the city centre to the north.

However, John Gould, managing director of Stagecoach South Wales, said a bus station south of the railway would be remote from the areas most passengers wish to access and would impose time penalties on bus services. All Stagecoach routes into Cardiff, and most suburban bus routes, approach the city centre north of the main railway line.

“We’ve already expressed our dismay at the plans to move the bus station away from its current site because BBC Wales wish to build a new structure there,” he said. “It’s clearly a case of short-term financial gain, in the form of redevelopment which would have a long-term and lasting detrimental effect on bus passengers.

“The last consideration is the millions of bus passengers that are ferried in and out of Cardiff each year by the different operators.

“If the relocation of BBC into the centre of the city is absolutely necessary, why not put it in the area that they are proposing to become the new bus station? Why inconvenience all those people and make their journeys less attractive?”

Bus access to the proposed southern site was not yet clear, he said. “There would be extra mileage to travel around the city centre to get there and back. We would have to see at some stage whether we would use the facilities or perhaps revert to on-street arrangements.”

Barclay Davies, of Bus Users Cymru, said other cities would “give their right arm” for adjoining bus and rail stations like Cardiff’s. He hoped the council’s consultation would ask people where they want the bus station, rather than presenting them “with a fait accompli”.

The city’s largest bus operator, Cardiff Bus, is regularly discussing the vision for a new interchange with its owner Cardiff council. Business development manager Gareth Stevens said: “We would like a modern facility that enhances the customer experience, works from an operational perspective and gives the city an interchange to be proud of.”

The rail industry’s Long Term Planning Process suggests a 69% increase in rail commuting into Cardiff over the next decade. Mark Langman, Network Rail’s Wales route managing director, said: “The station area is a prime location for commercial development, as the BBC Wales headquarter announcement shows, and we are really excited by the site and the opportunities it will unlock to redevelop the station. This is a unique opportunity to create a new station environment that is a fitting entrance to the capital city of Wales.”

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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