A series of proposed changes to Cardiff’s transport system – including an expanded bus service with £1 fares, new tram network and enhanced regional links – may only be possible if road-user charging (RUC) is introduced to help fund it, a new report reveals.
The report, which will be considered by Cardiff Council’s Cabinet on Thursday, 27 April, explores ways in which RUC might be reinvested to help build a transport system that could help reduce air pollution and congestion in the Welsh capital city.
If agreed, the project would consider a range of RUC schemes including, but not limited to, road user payments, congestion zones, clean air zones and workplace parking charges. It would also determine, in consultation with the public, on what a ‘fair and equitable’ payment might look like.
Thus, the project work will consider any local users that may need to be exempt, reimbursed or who qualify for discounts. It will reportedly seek to reduce impacts on the poorest residents, and on regular users in the city and region.
Cllr Dan De’Ath, Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for transport and strategic planning, said: “Many major UK cities have already taken – or are currently considering this step. A form of road user payment helps achieve their low carbon, clean air, and transport aims and objectives.
“In consultation with residents, businesses, and commuters, we want to explore how such a payment could provide funds which – when considered as part of wider funding arrangements – could completely transform the transport offer in Cardiff.
“People tell us all the time that the public transport system in the city isn’t up to scratch. We know this is true, but if we are going to get the transport system we need, then we must find a way of helping to pay for it.
“At the end of the day, the government isn’t coming forward with all the money required. Right now, we believe we only get 10-15% of the funding we would need to make the changes required.
“So, we want to see if a form of road user payment – ringfenced to fund transport initiatives – could play its part in speedily delivering a clean, green, efficient, and low-cost system for Cardiff, while reducing our over-reliance on cars.
“But we also know that the public will want to understand the benefits of any road user payment scheme before any regime is introduced. This is why the report clearly states what it wants to see delivered up front and what it can deliver in the future.”
According to Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas, if given the go-ahead, any RUC scheme “will take perhaps up to five years to implement”, with future money raised from the scheme – alongside Welsh government finding contributions – used to help bring forward a number of public transport initiatives.
These include a Metro city-wide tram system, prioritised bus network, delivery of an electric bus and taxi fleet, completion of the Eastern Bay Link and introduction of sustainable travel incentives.
However, the report also recommends that key transport improvements should be up and running in advance of any RUC scheme being introduced. These include the introduction of an expanded bus service with £1 fares, new tram network and enhanced regional links.
Without identifying a new approach to major capital and revenue funding, Cardiff – where road transport is reportedly currently responsible for 40% of the city’s carbon emissions and the cost of congestion to its economy was estimated by Inrix to be £109m in 2019 – will be unable to meet its transport, low carbon or economic targets and ambitions, warned the report.
Cllr De’Ath added: “If successful in the implementation, with a clear commitment to using income generated from the scheme against transport priorities, then the opportunity exists to transform not just the transport system, but also Cardiff’s economic prospects and productivity, city health and well-being, as well as the environment.
“Better transport options mean more people will be able to access more job opportunities, business will be able to access more workers, and congestion should ease – all of which will support increased productivity across the region.
“We don’t want to hide anything from our residents. There are some tough decisions ahead, decisions we will need to take together for the future of our city, and for our children who deserve to grow up in a cleaner, greener Cardiff.”
You can learn more about the key trends and challenges affecting senior decision-makers who have responsibility for tolling, intelligent transportation systems and road pricing across the world at the 21st annual Road User Charging Conference in Brussels, Belgium on 05-06 March 2024. Click here for more information.