News & Events

June 2022

South Wales Metro: What to expect for the Cardiff Region

South Wales Metro is described as ‘an integrated network of bus, rail and active travel (walking and cycling) that will improve connectivity and make sustainable travel easier across South Wales’.[1]

Some of the key elements include electrification of what are referred to as the Core Valley Lines which route between Cardiff and Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhymney, and Treherbert. Within Cardiff itself, the route to Coryton will also be upgraded. Many routes will see the introduction of tram trains, replacing much of the older fleet which currently operate across the network.

A new train depot is being constructed at Taff’s Well, just to the north of Cardiff to house the new trains and a range of complementary improvements are being provided at a number of stations across the network. Whilst at Cardiff Central, plans are in motion for a major upgrade there (Metro Central).

The frequency of services operating on the lines will increase to the extent that those wishing to travel locally in Cardiff will essentially be able to turn up at a station with limited waiting required for a service to their destination. At the same time, the frequency and speed of services to the heads of the valleys will improve connectivity to and between each of these areas.

In some ways, Transport for Wales have struggled to distil the fundamentals of the South Wales Metro and what it will mean for those living and working in the Cardiff Capital Region. This has in part been due to the broad definition of the scheme but also the way in which it has been used as an umbrella term to include walking, cycling and bus improvements alongside rail.

In covering all of these elements too, the South Wales Metro has perhaps lost its core message slightly, that it is primarily a mass transit scheme that will improve the speed and frequencies of rail services across the region. Clearly developing complementary access and interchange facilities are of importance and to an extent this is already taking place under the Metro Plus banner. Continuing to promote the core message though of Metro is essential for its delivery, public perception and ultimately endorsement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged conventional approaches to how travel patterns, particularly commuting is planned for. Recent events taking place in Cardiff such as high-profile concerts at the Principality Stadium have demonstrated the need for Cardiff’s transport network to serve its leisure events as well as its commuting population.

Ed Sheeran’s three-night tour at the Principality Stadium resulted in a record attendance for a concert in Wales with over 75,000 people attending the Friday night event. This eclipses the capacity crowds that have previously been recorded during rugby and other sporting events. Whilst the rail network was predictably very busy, it was the queuing to get out of city centre car parks and standstill on the M4 motorway that took the majority of the headlines. Fundamental to the Metro’s success will be its ability to not only cope with these types of events but actively attract people out of their cars for a greater range of journey purposes.

The South Wales Metro will provide an important opportunity for growth to take place across the region without the corresponding prerequisite for highway focused infrastructure improvements. Within Cardiff, the addition of several new stations will increase the opportunities for journeys not only into the city centre but between suburbs to be undertaken by rail to a greater degree.

The Metro provides a fantastic opportunity for transit-orientated development, the term used to plan and deliver walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods centred around high-quality public transport to take place in urban centres across the region.

With such big changes taking place, you would expect to see a real focus on sites close to Metro stations across the region developing. To date the response has been relatively subdued with the exception of some of the flagship sites such as the proposed Cardiff Arena located in the Cardiff Bay area of the city which frequently refers to the opportunities brought about by the development of Metro.

As the scheme continues to take shape it is anticipated that opportunities for benefiting and really building on the increasing accessibility that it will provide will become more evident. Developers and house builders should be seizing the opportunity to not only challenge local authorities on parking standards but also that of density. In the longer term there should be the expectation that being within the catchment of Metro services will be desirable for residents and occupiers. Planning should be taking place now to capitalise on this.

Across South Wales, Local Plans which are at various stages of preparation should be seeking to strengthen their alignment with the delivery of Metro, particularly where its delivery will provide step changes in accessibility and enable growth to take place in a sustainable manner.