Transport success and failure; WALESINMOTION WITH PROFESSOR STUART COLE.
I travelled "seamlessly" by train, London Underground and bus from Cardiff to the Open University in Milton Keynes to examine a PhD viva. Easy public transport took me to the National Eisteddfod offices in Ty Glas, the Welsh Government in Parc Cathays, Tata Steel in Port Talbot, Merthyr, Bristol, London, Gowerton and Llanelli (for the grammar school centenary dinner).
The big public transport success of last week was undoubtedly the non-stop train run of one hour 36 minutes (a record) from Cardiff to London Paddington by First Great Western's InterCity 125 train. Many mentioned seeing me on BBC Wales Today having an enjoyable on-board lunch - yes it was rather nice. But it illustrated something more important.
It showed what can be done and what we will see when the new electric trains arrive in 2017. These will run non-stop from Bristol Parkway station to Paddington and cut 17 minutes (34 minutes return) off the existing train journey from Swansea, Cardiff and Newport.
The trains will run into Swansea, where High Street station is having a pounds 3m transformation to give visitors a justifiably modern image of Swansea.
Smart and easy. This is the level and quality of connectivity with London, one of the world's top three financial centres.
Swansea can be proud of its successful state-of-the-art bus station - well designed, and managed with electronic departure gates.
It has clear, easy timetable information which hopefully will become real time; a taxi rank adjacent to the coach departure areas; an interchange for most services and adjacent to Swansea's main shopping areas. Well done Swansea.
Imagine my disappointment then on leaving the station to catch a local bus. The Metro service to Swansea bus station is well signposted with a new bus shelter. However should you wish to board another bus service into town the stop is some 100 metres away and has no signage, timetables or bus shelter, while northbound service bus stops are of unacceptable quality - no easy-toread timetables and no lights. Does it really make walking in the dark, across a busy road, in the rain, with luggage, children and a buggy very attractive? No of course it isn't acceptable. Hopefully Swansea will create a key public transport interchange in Wales' second city alongside the station refurbishment.
And what of Cardiff - our capital city? After several years of wrangling a decision was made to sensibly place the bus station section of the Cardiff Central public transport hub north of Cardiff Central station, through which the new trains will travel. South of Central Station the proposed scheme was unworkable and away from Cardiff's main business area.
The bus area is to be a part of the recently named "Central Business District", as this column suggested more than two years ago.
The decision now is not to make the big mistake of locating it the other side of Wood Street. The bus, taxi and cycle areas must be adjacent to the station front; the car pick-up/drop-off point on the Penarth Road side.
All this would fit into a plan for Cardiff as a sustainable travel city and provide "easy" movement.
In Merthyr, with low incomes, high unemployment and the bus as the main form of transport, options for the regeneration of the town centre were put to local residents but none referred to bus services into the central area.
The plan to redevelop the bus station and relocate the bus stops appears to have achieved an extra six minutes rather than reduced journey times on northbound buses, thus pushing up costs and possibly fares with no improvement in bus-rail interchange.
Merthyr deserves a better plan than this.
I've highlighted three of Wales' biggest towns or cities with their combination of transport success, hope and disappointment.
They are not unique.
Every town and city in Wales has to consider how to be sustainable, despite reduced budgets, if there is to be a significant swing from the car. * Professor Stuart Cole is Professor Emeritus in Transport, Wales Transport Research Centre, University of Glamorgan
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|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Nov 2, 2011|
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