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).

“Airport City” and the missing “Masterplan”: Questions abound for Rhoose residents…

As the Vale of Glamorgan Local Development Plan (LDP) consultation (deadline 20th December) continues, serious implications for residents of Rhoose remain hidden within a “Masterplan” that no one has seen or is able to comment on.

The “Masterplan”, which the Vale council LDP refers to as a Welsh Government document, although the First Minister insists is a Cardiff Airport Board document, contains a reference to an “Airport City”. On page 70, paragraph 6.62 of the LDP, the document says:

airport city reference in LDP

This reference to the Airport City Masterplan can be found in the Local Development Plan on pages 70 – 71

The Masterplan, which we are told will contain details of proposals for this Airport City, including the following elements;

  • “Safeguarding the route” of the railway Spur from the Vale line to the airport.
  • An ‘energy centre’, described as a combined heat and power plant.
  • Employment land to the south of Port Road, which currently comprises the best agricultural land on Model Farm, which Gethin and Rhys Jenkins‘ family has been farming for four generations.
  • An extension to Porthkerry Country Park, by land being transferred from Legal and General, the Landowners (who will see an huge increase in the overall value of their land from its reclassification from Agricultural to Employment land) to the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

The inclusion of this Masterplan within the LDP leaves many questions for us residents of the local area, which you might want to ask local councillors and planners:

  1. Why are the Council, who received our petition opposing the rail spur during the last LDP, still insisting on having this proposal in the new LDP?
  2. How can the council justify tucking way in a reference on page 71 “safeguarding the route of the rail spur”, and then only in a reference to a “Masterplan” that no one has seen nor can comment on?
  3. Why does the Council feel that it needs to allocate more land to the employment zone for this “Airport City” south of Port Road, when there is plenty of employment land already allocated north of the road which hasn’t yet been developed, despite being available for the last 15 years?
  4. How can the council justify rendering Model Farm economically unviable, thereby ending the farm that four generations of tenant farmers have been looking after and from which they have produced high quality food for Wales? Especially while employment land north of Port Road remains undeveloped and unused?
  5. How much disruption will be caused to local residents using Port Road to commute to Barry and Cardiff, in building this power plant and the development (if it ever happens) of the employment land south of the road, and what will happen to the iconic view across the fields to the viaduct, the Bristol channel and beyond from the road?
  6. While the extension to Porthkerry Country park seems positive for the Vale, has the Council looked fully into the financial implications of managing all this extra land? At present, the land is tended by the farmers at Model farm, at no cost to the taxpayer.And perhaps most urgently…
  7. Who is responsible for the creation of this “Masterplan”? When will it be published? Will it be open to public consultation?

Confusion about who is writing the Masterplan

The Vale of Glamorgan Council Local Development plan states clearly that the “Masterplan” is being prepared by the Welsh Government on page 70:

WelshGovMasterplan

But Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, has said equally clearly in the Senedd that it is NOT a Welsh Government document, but the Cardiff Airport Board are preparing it:

What questions do you want answered about these plans? If you’re a resident of Rhoose, how do you feel about these plans for your local area being developed without consultation with the public? Do you feel that the “Spur” idea is still a threat to our rail services on the Vale line?

A closer look at the Vale LDP: The spur is still in there…

On closer examination, the rail spur from the Vale line into Cardiff Airport is still a part of the Vale of Glamorgan’s thinking, if not their immediate plans.

In our previous post. we reported that the rail spur had been taken out of the Vale Council’s immediate plans for development in the county, but now that we’ve had the chance to take a closer look at the Local Development Plan, we’ve noticed that they hold out the possibility of building the rail spur at some (unspecified) time in the future, to support the Enterprise Zone at Cardiff Airport.

spursnippet

Reference to the Cardiff Airport Rail Spur in the Vale of Glamorgan’s Local Development Plan (page 71)

The reference comes in a section that deals with the Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone on pages 70 – 71. the enterprise zone is an initiative to create employment opportunities in the aerospace and defence sectors, and is located at the Aerospace business park in St Athan and the land adjacent to Cardiff Airport and Port Road.

The LDP says that a “Masterplan” is being prepared by the Welsh Government, and will inform part of the future planning and development of the land, and will address a number of issues including the development of the land for employment, the provision of an energy centre and “Safeguarding of a route for a potential rail link to Cardiff Airport across the site…”.

In order to “Safeguard a route”, the Welsh Government will need to identify that route, and this prompts questions about where it will go, what habitats it might disturb and the impact that it may have on the Vale line. As we have shown before, a spur from the Vale line to the airport will disrupt the important commuter connection from Llantwit Major and Rhoose into Cardiff, just as the electrification of the line is announced.

So could Vale commuters see their Vale line increase to half hourly trains only to be quickly pegged back to the existing (and inadequate) hourly service? How will this “Masterplan” will be put together, including crucially, will the people of the Vale have a democratic opportunity to respond to the plan while it is still in a draft form?

New Vale LDP – Spur dropped, Vale line to be electrified

The Labour controlled Vale of Glamorgan Council has just released a new Local Development Plan (LDP) after it scrapped the previous version shortly after winning the council elections in 2012.

On first glance, the most significant news for supporters of the Stop the Spur campaign are:

  1. The railway spur from the Vale line to Cardiff Airport that was proposed in the Conservative led council’s LDP in 2012 has been scrapped, and no longer appears in the council’s plans.
  2. There is a proposal, backed by Central government plans, to electrify the entire Vale of Glamorgan rail line.

The removal of the Spur track from the Vale of Glamorgan line into Cardiff airport is clearly a sign that common sense has prevailed within the council. We have written extensively on why this proposal would have been a terrible waste of money, would not have been well used, and would have throttled services for local residents using the Vale line.

The other bit of good news for local people who use the Vale line to get in and out of Cardiff from Llantwit Major, Rhoose and the surrounding area, is that the line is to be electrified, opening up the possibility of more frequent services on the line, something that residents are especially concerned about, and have been expecting for some years. The LDP states that this work will be completed by 2018.

We are taking a close look at the proposals and will updates you with any more interesting news that affects the campaign in due course. You can check out the LDP for yourself here.

Many thanks to all of you who have supported this campaign and helped it to be such a success, to the council, who have seen sense, and in particular, to Councillor Lis Burnett, who is responsible for preparing and publishing the LDP.

All aboard the Cardiff Airport express bus – from today

Earlier this year various people, most notably Assembly Member Eluned Parrott, began calling again for an express bus service between Cardiff city centre and Cardiff Airport.

Well the brand new Cardiff Airport express bus launches today, 1st August 2013. Here’s the official press release from earlier this week. Kudos to Edwina Hart, Transport Minister at the Welsh Government, for sanctioning this and enabling it to happen – along with the councils of Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff.

According to the press release there is a ’20-minute service frequency, seven days a week, from early morning to late at night’. In addition we get ‘coach-style leather seating, climate control, WiFi, extra luggage space and improved on-board information’.

Similar airport express bus services such as those of Edinburgh and Bristol have been very successful.

At the Stop The Spur campaign we are particularly happy that this decision has also preserved Vale of Glamorgan railway line services for commuters.

Cardiff Airport want your feedback

Cardiff Airport are asking for your opinions on how they could improve their service. Do take a moment to give them some feedback.

Don’t forget to mention particular air routes that you would like to see added – in an ideal world. The outcome depends not only on the airport but operators’ willingness to work with them. The airport people will at least read your comment, so you just never know!

(We’re sharing this because it’s of interest to supporters of the Stop The Spur campaign. Obviously if you have a message for the airport then please send it directly.)

 

 

The idea of an express bus service to Cardiff Airport

There has been plenty of coverage about the Welsh Government’s acquisition of Cardiff Airport. Earlier this week we saw how the number of passengers has just dipped below one million per year.

Further down that BBC story there’s an interesting quotation from Eluned Parrott who is the local Liberal Democrat Assembly Member:

[…] Welsh Liberal Democrat business spokeswoman Eluned Parrott had hoped Mrs Hart would bring forward plans for an express bus service from central Cardiff to the airport.

“This bus link is vital,” she said.

“A direct high quality bus service from Swansea to Bristol Airport via Cardiff will shortly be launched without any taxpayer assistance.

“The Welsh government really does need to start their service, which was first announced almost four years ago, as soon as possible.” […]

This express bus seems like a very good idea to us at the Stop The Spur campaign. Whereas people often like to take a car or at least get a car lift to ease transport of luggage, an express bus could be a good value method of increasing local travel options. It comes without the serious problems associated with a rail spur (burden on the rail line, significant damage to the local environment and huge financial costs – to name three!).

Here’s another thing that would improve local transport options. We in the Vale of Glamorgan are all looking forward to the twice hourly rail service that will run on the Vale line, which is scheduled to begin in 2014. It will mean you can get to the Rhoose Cardiff International Airport station by train and then jump on the excellent shuttle bus between the station and the airport. People tend to forget about the shuttle bus – it’s a reason why a rail spur as suggested in the old Local Development Plan is just not needed.

We offer these comments advisedly though. A new express bus service running from Cardiff centre, while welcome, would not be enough to revive the airport. As the airport management and others have said repeatedly, there is a relative shortage of air routes and flights. Only when the airport manages to attract more operators and extend the choice available will we start to see a real change in fortunes.

Transport to and from the airport, while relevant to the discussion, is less of an issue. As we’ve highlighted before, when surveyed only 3% of customers stated that accessibility of the airport was a reason not to choose Cardiff Airport compared to 57% citing choice of destinations or choice of flights as the reasons for picking another airport. It makes complete sense when you think about it. Here’s the pie chart from that market research which we reproduced last year:

By the way there’s a fuller comment from Parrott about the express bus proposal, on her website. It’s a good time for her to be reminding the Welsh Government of this proposal – and it would be superb to see the express bus happen.

Cardiff Airport’s performance woes and Carwyn Jones’ airport task force

In May this year you may have seen news of an investigation being conducted by the First Minister Carwyn Jones, with the help of a task force of various groups that have a stake in the airport.

One of the groups who were asked to make a representation to the task force is the Vale of Glamorgan Council. As we’ve noted before, because of new leadership the original Local Development Plan, including the rail spur suggestion, has been discarded. Council leader Neil Moore has talked about going ‘back to the drawing board’ on more than one occasion.

According to BBC News today, Cardiff Airport has suffered a drop in passenger numbers in a comparison of the first half of 2012 with the same period in 2011. Another group on the task force is the Airport itself who have given some pretty clear clues in today’s article about what they would like to see. A spokesperson gave a key reason for the unfortunate drop in passenger numbers:

The airport said the majority of the fall was due to the decision of bmibaby to pull out of Cardiff.

Then an echo of what Steve Hodgetts, the commercial director of the Airport, said in March this year:

The spokesperson added that route development remained a priority for the airport, which was working closely with the Welsh government through the newly established Airport Taskforce and Enterprise Zone.

In fact the Airport has never lobbied or asked or expressed a desire for a direct rail spur to answer its woes. It’s clear from the bmibaby example that retention of airlines is very important. It’s also clear that route development – that is, more and better air routes around the world including new partnerships with additional airlines – is what will help to bring more passengers to the airport.

As far as we’re aware the task force investigation is still ongoing and we’re looking forward to the findings when they are eventually published. Given the early signs given by the Council and the Airport – two influential members of the task force – we’d be willing to bet that the idea of a direct rail spur in the Vale of Glamorgan won’t be among the recommendations. Let’s hope so at least.

Vale Council to go back to the drawing board on LDP

As this site has gone a bit quiet since the Stop the Spur petition was delivered to the Vale of Glamorgan Council, we thought it might be useful to post an update on what’s been happening with the proposal to build an unnecessary rail link from the Vale line to Cardiff airport.

So what’s been happening? Well, first there was a local council election in which the ruling Conservative group lost their grip on the council, and although the Labour party was unable to establish a ruling majority, they are leading the Council under Neil Moore.

An article in the Western Mail in May of this year offers a hint as to what is happening with the LDP (Local Development Plan) and what this might mean for the Spur proposal.

Councillor Moore is quoted in the article:

“As far as I’m concerned we have got to go back to the drawing board.”

The article quotes a range of issues that the Labour Group want to revisit, including proposals to build up to 10,000 houses in the Vale. This may mean that the Spur proposal comes back in a different form, and we may have to go through the whole consultation process again.

Indeed, a recent article in the Penarth Times seemed to confirm this, with Counsellor Lis Burnett saying:

“I have already sought advice as to how we can extend future consultation on the plan.

“I am also currently carrying out a review of the statutory LDP process and am considering the options available to us as a new administration.

“I am concerned at various elements of the plan as drafted and remain committed to ensuring that we do whatever is necessary to deliver a sustainable LDP for the Vale of Glamorgan,” she added.

“As a result, no decision has yet been taken as to the timescale for future consultation, although that consultation will be far more meaningful.”

So it looks like the LDP will come back, although we don’t know whether it’ll contain the Spur proposal this time. We’ll keep an eye on it, and make sure we let you know what’s going on.