DELAYS to Cardiff’s metro and bus station have been slammed amid calls for the city to be given mayor-style powers.
One senior cabinet member at Cardiff council partly blamed the years of delays on a lack of powers, saying he wished the city had control of transport policy like the Mayor of London.
Major upgrades to transport infrastructure in Cardiff have seen long delays, including on the road network, the new bus station and cycle lanes, despite ambitious council plans.
As the council’s cabinet published yet another strategy plan, this time to recover the city centre post-Covid, opposition councillors said Cardiff residents were “fed up with plan after plan”.
The recovery plan includes finishing the bus station, delivering plans for a metro link between the city centre and the Bay, and developing a master plan for taxis and parking, as well as making the city centre feel safer and planting more greenery.
During a cabinet meeting on Thursday, January 20, Councillor Adrian Robson, Conservative group leader, said: “We’re now six or seven years since we started talking about linking the Bay with the city centre via a metro scheme of some sort. Yet not one bit of track has been laid.
“I just wonder how deliverable some of this is. It’s fantastic that the city centre has not been decimated by the coronavirus — there was a risk it could have been — to hear there’s strength and interest from investors is definitely a relief. But some of these schemes have been talked about for a long, long time and have never got off the ground.
“Quite frankly, Cardiff residents are fed up with seeing plan after plan for the transport network, particularly with the Metro. We still don’t really know what that’s going to entail. The same with the bus station — it’s not there yet and it really needs to be there.”
Cardiff has been without a central bus station since 2015, and after years of setbacks, the new bus station is rapidly taking shape and is due to open next year. It was originally scheduled to take two and a half years to build.
Improving the rail connection between the city centre and the Bay has also been on the agenda for years, as part of the Cardiff Crossrail plan.
Councillor Russell Goodway, the cabinet member for investment and development, said the council relied on other bodies for major transport initiatives like improving railways. He also called for transport policy powers to be devolved to Cardiff as a capital city, similar to how Transport for London has control over most of the transport network in England’s capital.
“Previous administrations put forward plans that never materialised in any way at all. At least we’ve delivered them, maybe not in the timescales that we would have liked. But the bus station building is now there for people to see, and if you look inside it you can see the bus bays starting to emerge. I accept it’s not operational.
“For things like the Metro and other initiatives, we have to recognise that the council isn’t in control of the whole gambit of actions that need to be taken to make these things happen. I wish it were different, I wish devolution would go further and that Cardiff as a capital city would have the powers that the Mayor of London has.”
Four new regional government bodies are due to be set up this year in Wales, which will be responsible for regional transport and strategic planning.
Corporate Joint Committees (CJCs) will play a major role in deciding how to invest in public transport and where major housing developments should be built across the south-east, south-west, north and mid-Wales.
Cardiff will sit in the southeast CJC, which covers the same area as the Cardiff Capital Region, a similar regional body of councils responsible for economic development. This body received £1.2 billion of government funding, known as a city deal, in 2018. More than £700 million of this cash will be spent on the South Wales Metro public transport project.
Cllr Caro Wild, the cabinet member for strategic planning and transport, said it was “mind-blowing” how much investment in railways Wales missed out on due to Westminster’s controversial decision on HS2 funding for the Welsh Government. He added the cabinet was pushing for greater control of transport policy both in Wales and Cardiff.
“The UK government has underinvested in rail in Wales over the last decade. Analysis of the HS2 decision shows it could have released a Barnett consequential of £5 billion into Wales, which is mind-blowing sums of rail investment. But it wasn’t even the slightest consideration you would imagine the UK government was ever going to do that.
“We’re certainly pushing the Welsh Government to try and get greater devolution of rail powers in Wales, and for us in Cardiff. But the City Deal has been set up and has immediately invested more than half of its money in the metro, and that work is underway.”