Conservatives in Wales: better bus services to Cardiff Airport are needed

In case you missed it the Conservative party in Wales have published a report called A Blueprint For Cardiff Airport. WalesOnline ran a piece on Monday and if you’d like to delve right in you can read the Conservatives’ press release and the report itself in English (PDF) or in Welsh (PDF).

As well as some productive recommendations regarding routes, marketing and the devolution of Air Passenger Duty it was encouraging to see this:

[…] Cardiff Airport pales in comparison to its rivals in terms of access provision. With its own infrastructure restrictions in terms of road access, Bristol Airport provides an express bus from the centre of Bristol to the airport that operates 24 hours a day at intervals of ten minutes at peak time. The charges for this are relatively high with an adult return costing £11, but due to the high demand for the service and other alternatives being more costly, these charges are competitive. In 2012, 690,373 passengers used this service. Similarly Liverpool John Lennon Airport benefits from a designated bus service every half hour from Liverpool City Centre.

In the short term Cardiff Airport needs a more efficient and regular bus connection at least twice an hour at peak time from Cardiff City Centre. In addition, Greyhound coaches now offer a South Wales service to and from Bristol Airport which stops at Swansea, Bridgend, Cardiff and Newport. No equivalent is present for Cardiff Airport. A similar service run by a private operator should be implemented for Cardiff Airport.

A regular Cardiff City Centre bus service is the first step to improving airport connectivity. This service would require a relatively substantial initial investment to cover start-up costs, but any investment would be to the benefit of the airport. Currently the Welsh Government subsidises £100,000 of the costs of the 905 link from Rhoose station to the airport. This is a route fewer than 2.5 miles. We believe that this investment would be better placed as part of a regular route from Cardiff City Centre, for example to increase the X91 route from every two hours to twice an hour.

Branding and promotion are also important in order to improve public awareness of the service. Currently 9% of passengers travel to Cardiff Airport by bus or coach. We would aim to double this figure under a more frequent bus option. […]

It would be superb to see better bus services, as also recommended by the Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Eluned Parrott. They’d be relatively easy and cheap to introduce too. The writer of the report seems a little less sure about rail ‘improvements’ finally concluding that:

[…] Whilst surface infrastructure investment around the airport is clearly important, road and rail are costly developments which we believe are best placed as long term investments. […]

As we’ve pointed out before, the costs of rail work are not just huge in financial and environmental terms but would have a negative impact on the ordinary rail services between the Vale and Cardiff. That’s assuming we’re talking about something resembling the rail spur in the Vale’s Local Development Plan of last year – which is now defunct anyway.

By the way Sunday’s edition of the Wales Report on BBC One with Huw Edwards had a fairly good item summarising the challenges of the Airport for the Welsh Government (item starts at 17 mins 30 secs on iPlayer) – making the sensible suggestion that investment in new routes to attract passengers is the main thing that’s needed.