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Cardiff Crossrail set to take a major step forward

The proposed design for the Cardiff Crossrail tram-trains (Pic: Transport for Wales)

THE DEVELOPMENT of a tram-train line in Cardiff is about to take a major step forward with a design and build partner set to be appointed.

Cardiff Council cabinet members will be asked to approve a recommendation at a meeting Thursday, March 21, to procure and appoint a delivery partner for the first phase of Cardiff Crossrail.

The multimillion-pound transport project will eventually see a tram-train line run from the northwest of the city to the east.

Phase one of the project will involve developing the tram-train line between Cardiff Central and Cardiff Bay railway stations.

Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for strategic planning and transport, Cllr Dan De’Ath, said: “The Crossrail has been a long-held ambition for some time, to provide a cross-city tram service that is affordable and reliable for the public to use, and to connect some of Cardiff’s poorest communities to the rail network for the first time.”

The cabinet member also said the first phase of the “ambitious” plan will ensure that Butetown is “properly connected to the city centre”.

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He added: “The scheme will also create jobs in construction and operation and give the residents of Butetown better travel options for both work and pleasure.

“The social value of the contract will be confirmed by the chosen contractor when the bids are received and evaluated.

“Once the first phase is delivered, this route can be extended to the east or south, providing a new reliable and affordable transport route for the public to use.”

At the meeting later this month, cabinet members will also be asked to approve a recommendation which gives authority for the council and Transport for Wales (TfW) to start the consultation and engagement process on the plan with the public.

Cardiff Council, in partnership with TfW, secured £100m in funding for the Cardiff Crossrail project in January 2023.

Money from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund to the tune of £50m was also secured, with Welsh Government match funding a further £50m for the project. 

The £50m UK Government funding must be spent by the middle of 2026 and the Welsh Government’s funding will be awarded in four annual instalments of £12.5m each from 2026.

To meet these timelines, the project has been divided up into two delivery phases.

Phase 1a

This phase is fully funded and will require a significant redevelopment of the highway network around Callaghan Square so the tram-train can connect onto the existing Cardiff Bay train line, as well as a new tram-train platform at Cardiff Central. 

There will also be a new public realm in front of Callaghan Square, a new segregated cycleway to connect Cardiff Central with Callaghan Square linking with the wider strategic network, and changes to the access arrangements for general traffic through Bute Terrace and Lower St Mary Street.

Phase 1b

This phase isn’t currently funded, but it will include the re-modelling of the highway network around the Flourish and Pierhead Street to allow for a new tram track extension to be built.

This part of the scheme will also include improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, like new crossing facilities and a new segregated cycleway to connect Roald Dahl Plass with the new indoor arena development. 

An outline business case for phase one of Cardiff Crossrail is expected to be submitted to the UK Government in April 2024 and a public consultation could take place in autumn 2024 – the same time that enabling works are scheduled to commence.

A full business case is expected to be submitted to the UK Government in winter 2024 and construction could begin by summer or autumn 2025, subject to a further cabinet approval to award the tender for the project.