Railway proposals in Cardiff Airport’s new Master Plan

Yesterday Cardiff Airport launched its draft Master Plan, through to 2030.

The proposed rail frequency enhancements on the Vale line, as promised by the Keolis-Amey consortium for the line by 2023, will directly help bring passengers to the Airport. The improvements will also help the local residents of Rhoose, St Athan and Llantwit and begin to make it possible to commute reliably to Cardiff or Bridgend. The promise is for half hourly services on the Vale of Glamorgan line in each direction, meaning four trains an hour arriving at Rhoose and able to serve the Airport. Currently these run only hourly. There is also discussion of a bus service to the Airport from Barry train station.

However, over and above these rail access provisions, we would like to draw your attention to the continuing inclusion within the Airport master plan of a rail spur route, through Porthkerry Park, which is being ‘safeguarded’ with a view to the future needs of the airport.

You can read the recommendations of the master plan here.

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Rail spur plans still on hold in Vale of Glamorgan LDP “Focused Changes” document

SD04-Schedule-Focused-Changes-and-Minor-Changes-Consultation-Document

Schedule of Focused and Minor Changes (document from Vale of Glamorgan Council’s website)

The Vale of Glamorgan Council today publish their ‘Focused Changes’ document, in response to their consultation on the Local Development Plan. This is the next stage in the Council’s ongoing efforts to get its Local Development Plan implemented, setting out what it will do after the public’s response to the LDP, which was published in Autumn 2013.

As we reported then, the proposal for the railway spur from the Vale line into the Airport was dropped, but the threat of it remained in the document, which set out the need to “safeguard” a route for the potential rail link.

People were invited to comment on the LDP, and these comments were taken into account, and now a document called ‘Focused Changes’ has been published. There will now be a period of consultation on these changes only.

Whereas the LDP proposals were ‘safeguarding’ the potential spur route, the new document proposes a change that will see the wording change to ‘consideration’, saying instead.

“Consideration of a route for a potential rail link to Cardiff Airport across the site to ensure development proposals do not compromise future proposals to enhance sustainable access to the airport”

So there are currently no plans to build the spur.

This is good news for residents of the Vale, who would have seen their local train services depleted by the demand on the line for the airport.

It’s good news too for the wildlife and ancient woodlands that will not now be destroyed to make way for the spur, leaving more of this beautiful green wedge landscape intact.

BUT the idea of the spur remains in the planning document. So, the door has been left ajar for the moment, without being firmly closed and locked – and we will need to keep an eye on future developments.

model-farm

Bad news remains, for Gethin Jenkins and Rhys Jenkins, whose family farm lies in the middle of the proposed Enterprise Zone. They and their home at Model Farm were featured on the Stop The Spur website in March 2012. Despite a slight change in the spur plan the future of Model Farm remains grim. As soon as the Enterprise Zone starts to expand from its current location, the farm will stand in the way.

As the land allocated for the current enterprise zone isn’t yet full, it may be a while before this happens. But it looks like Rhys’ prospects of continuing the family farming tradition in the longer term may be destroyed.

What we can learn from Prof Stuart Cole’s review of the Airport Express bus

After a lack of take-up of the Airport Express bus service the Welsh Government commissioned Prof Stuart Cole to undertake a review, the results of which have recently been released:

The Cardiff airport shuttle service is sustainable, as long as air passenger numbers increase as forecast, a report for Welsh ministers has concluded.

Prof Stuart Cole from the University of South Wales was asked to review the bus service that was introduced in April.

He says eight passengers per journey are needed to make a profit, but the average is currently less than four.

Welsh ministers said they were considering the report while the Tories said it raised “serious questions”.

Funded by the Welsh government at a cost of £242,691 so far, the bus runs every 20 minutes from the airport at Rhoose, in the Vale of Glamorgan, to the centre of Cardiff.

The service has very quickly established a high profile and strong identity”

It also suggests cutting the number of journeys at the start and end of the day when demand is lower. […]

Cardiff Airport shuttle bus averages four passengers a journey 6th Feb 2014
Airport shuttle sustainable if air passengers increase, review concludes 7th Feb 2014

This new report from Prof Stuart Cole finds that not many people choose public transport as their method to go to the Airport. This vindicates what we have always said at the Stop the Spur – Protect The Vale Line campaign: demand for public transport to the Airport is low.

“While a bus service is expensive, it’s a lot less expensive than building a new piece of railway. Welsh Government is quite right to question the cost effectiveness of even this modest bus service but it certainly isn’t worth spending £45 million (at today’s prices) on a direct rail link – with all of the disruption and damage that the work would entail – to the Airport. Why? There just wouldn’t be the passenger demand for it.”

Regular readers of this blog will remember this infographic produced in March 2012 and no less useful now:

The £15m in our round logo is the rough cost of only one mile of flat simple track. However the true cost is nearer £45m, made up of:

  • 1.6 miles of track (£24m for a start!),
  • a new junction and new signalling next to the viaduct,
  • a 900-metre cutting through one hillside,
  • earth works and dam to across Whitelands Brook,
  • a further 400m cutting and earthworks, leading to
  • two tunnels- one under the Port Road and one under the Airport Access Road, AND
  • a completely new station plus signalling at the Airport.

If we could be so bold as to add an addendum to Prof Stuart Cole’s analysis it would contain the following:

  1. RECOMMENDATION: Protect the Vale line. Keep the services for local residents. Increase the frequency of services to help commuters choose rail instead road.
  2. RECOMMENDATION: Publicise the bus service that meets every train and goes to the Airport. Those asking for a a rail connection are ignoring the fact that we already have one. The rail connection already exists! Rhoose Cardiff International Airport is the name of the station and the cost of the short trip is £1 (one pound).