A report by economy think-tank Centre for Cities has recommended that Welsh bus lanes be exempted from the new 20mph speed limit to enhance public transport efficiency and make bus travel more attractive.
It forms part of a report emphasising the critical role of public transport in achieving the Welsh Government’s goal of 45% of journeys via public transport and active travel by 2040. The report, which underscores the economic, environmental, and accessibility benefits of the target, particularly for non-car owners, lays out a roadmap for different regions in Wales, with a focus on urban centres as key drivers in the transformation.
While the report does not explicitly comment on the feasibility of the 45% target, it implies that achieving it would require bold interventions in urban planning and significant investments in transport infrastructure, beyond incremental changes.
The report highlights the central role of Cardiff in driving public transport ridership due to its high concentration of city centre jobs and congestion levels. Compared to other Welsh cities like Swansea, Newport, and Wrexham, Cardiff’s urban dynamics make public transport a more attractive option. The expansion and improvement of Cardiff’s public transport network, including the South Wales Metro and the upcoming Cardiff Crossrail and Circle tram-train lines, are pivotal in expanding service areas and increasing accessibility.
In contrast, the less dense urban form in other Welsh regions, particularly rural areas, presents unique challenges in making public transport competitive with private vehicles. The report suggests that in places like Swansea, Newport, and Wrexham, a significant urban redevelopment is necessary to shift the balance in favour of public transport. Comparisons with European cities like Nantes, Kiel, Aachen, and Annecy highlight the need for greater residential density near public transport hubs to improve efficiency and accessibility.
In the short term, the report advises focusing on high-precision, low-frequency services to serve specific areas like industrial estates and business parks, akin to models in Sunderland and Bristol. This approach requires careful coordination among local governments, employers, and trade unions.
For the long term, substantial investments in urban redevelopment and transport infrastructure are deemed essential.
The report also explores the potential of bus franchising, as seen in Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region, to provide more comprehensive and integrated public transport services. However, it acknowledges the need for substantial subsidies, suggesting various revenue-raising policies such as congestion charging, workplace parking levies, tax devolution, and cross-subsidisation.