South Wales Metro & Lloyd George Avenue

Just re-read an article for the IWA  I penned in 2012…which touched on the opportunity to use the South Wales Metro to finally deliver the Lloyd George Avenue (LGA) envisaged by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (CBDC) in the 1990s.

For me the Metro presents a huge number of urban design, development and regeneration opportunities.  One is to finally deliver the high quality public transport, active travel and development corridor between Cardiff City Centre/Central and Cardiff Bay.  The current Lloyd George Avenue (LGA) was always unfinished business. It was originally designed to accommodate a segregated Light Rail (LR) route but that idea was kicked into the long grass  by the then Strategic Rail Authority in the 1990s. 

Illustration of proposals for LGA (including LR) published by CBDC in early 1990s

The original masterplan (and I have the copies) was to completely re-design the corridor and better integrate Butetown and Atlantic Wharf, and the Bay and City Centre.  This would have include new higher density mixed use developments, new public spaces and “reconnect the city centre with its waterfront” – one of the primary objectives of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation.

The whole scheme was ultimately compromised by the retention of Heavy Rail and the physical barrier wall, which  resulted in a smaller scale development on LGA that could not support mixed uses.  We now have a windswept road with the greatest oversupply of traffic light capacity (probably in the world) Vs the demand! This is unfinished business.

However, the Metro and the application of battery tram-trains operating on Line of sight (LoS) principles south of Central & Queen St presents an opportunity to transform this corridor. That was always one of my objectives for the Metro – a complete overhaul of LGA: new development, greenspace, stations and to address the integration of Butetown into the wider bay development – and yes this will need  community engagement and involvement.  The last point is key and one of the failings of the work in the 1990s in respect of Butetown.

Postscript Sep 2020.

I think opportunity to more seriously and properly engage the local community is real and must be taken. I grew up nearby in Grangetown and had family and friends from Butetown. I remember (just!) the wholesale demolition of the old Tiger Bay by Cardiff Council in the late 1960s which I think did lasting damage. That was also when the old west dock started to be filled in and the last signs of the old canal were erased.

I was a supporter of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (CBDC) which was set up in 1987 and what it did more widely across South Cardiff for enabling development (some of questionable quality) across huge swathes of disused docks and industrial sites from Penarth to Tremorfa – including the old East Moors steelworks site. Remember in the 1980s Cardiff was a decaying post industrial city with very serious economic challenges.

However, for me and noted by many others, a real failing of CBDC, despite its other physical successes, was its minimal engagement and impact on the original community and residents of Butetown. There were good intentions, but CBDC was really a land and property focussed regeneration and development organisation. Yes Cardiff needed that; but Butetown also needed help which it didn’t really get. I am not saying Metro can fill the gap; but in developing the bay line, new stations, etc there is opportunity to engage the community and at least try and provide a catalyst for a more people and community focussed regeneration that other parties could help shape and deliver.

In my 2011 report A Metro for Wales’ Capital City Region I set out the opportunity for a new linear park running north-south punctuated by smaller scale developments creating a string of small parks/squares with a reduction in the road space.  I revisited that opportunity in the 2013 Metro Impact Study (see illustrations below prepared by The Urbanists) and the recent Metro and Me report.

Illustration potential Metro interventions using tram-train from the 2013 Metro Impact Study

One option for tramway operations and a Loudon Square St from 2013 Metro Impact Study

The plans for metro bring all this back into focus.   

However, the current Metro proposals, whilst using battery tram-trains operating (I understand) to tramway and not Heavy Rail (HR) standards on the bay branch, still envisage 25Kv catenary (overhead electrification)  down the current bay line as far as Hemmingway road and the current Bay station; this would stymie the opportunity, even with the new station at Loudon Sq. This is because operating using overhead 25Kv catenary means keeping the rail line segregated from the wider area – and certainly from the public.

This would be a poor design decision and completely miss the opportunity that has waited 20 years for the Metro.  At the very least battery operations and the application of tramway operating standards (which the proposed tram-train vehicles enable) will allow the current stark separation of the rail line and the wider area to be softened and facilitate a major re-landscaping of the current route as shown in the above Loudon Square illustration.

Post Script: I understand there are 25Kv catenary engineering interventions that can allow some permeability and which would not significantly impact a more people friendly landscaping of the corridor.

A new public transport route could be integrated with an active travel/green corridor like that illustrated below from the proposed new “Arbutus Greenway” showing LRV and active travel routes on an old HR line in Vancouver.

Illustration of proposed LRV on Arbutus Greenway in Vancouver

A more strategic and ambitious proposal would see the closure of the western carriageway of LGA  as a road and used instead for a re-aligned Metro line operating to tramway standards from Central and Herbert St all the way to the Wales Millennium Centre and potentially beyond (see illustration below). This will free up the current rail corridor for an ambitious landscaping, regeneration and mixed use development project as was always the original intent back in the 1990s. Even without the re-alignment there is still major opportunity to re-landscape the entire corridor as a green PT/AT route.

To provide legibility between Metro tramway and HR operations, a new station south of Queen St at Herbert St could be introduced. Such a station would also provide access to that part of the city centre for services from Pontypridd heading south from Queen St direct to Cardiff Bay (and so not to Central). The scheme would also provide a direct connection between Cardiff Bay and Cardiff Central and onto the city line to the west of the city as pat of the Cardiff Crossrail proposals.

Whilst all this is possible, it does requires a change to the current solution proposed by KeolisAmey. There is still time!

Wider extension, development & regeneration opportunities (from Metro & Me. Oct 2018)

I have a lot on – but this is high on my list of things to “go on about”! 

I would further argue that we need an approach aligned with the principles of the Well Being of Future Generation Act in respect of securing long term impacts/benefits, community engagement/involvement and collaboration between key stakeholders.

The key players must work together to ensure this opportunity is grasped!

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