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Challenges Cardiff Council faces when number of major events come to city this summer

Council officials have opened up on the challenges the council's highways team face when major events come to the city (Pic: Ted Peskett)

THE NUMBER and size of events that Cardiff will have to deal with this summer is “exceptional”, a council official has said.

Head of transport at Cardiff Council, Claire Moggridge, made her comments at a council environmental scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday, May 9, where members were given an insight into how the city is kept moving when major events take place.

Ms Moggridge said this year was probably one of the busiest years for events in the city in her 20 years of working on events at the council.

Over the past few years, crowds have flocked to the city to watch major acts, like Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, and Beyonce.

More recently, 65,000 attended the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Principality Stadium.

Tens of thousands are also expected to come and watch Taylor Swift in June and Foo Fighters later that month, both also at the Principality Stadium.

Then, there are the many sporting events that Cardiff holds regularly like the half marathon, 10k and triathlon which attract thousands.

Public transport management

A member of the environmental scrutiny committee, Cllr John Lancaster, raised concerns about how transport coped in the city when events co-coincided with each other, describing the evening Ed Sheeran played in Cardiff on the same day as My Chemical Romance (Friday, May 28, 2022) as a “nightmare”.

“My friend and I ended up walking back pretty much from Sophia Gardens to Gabalfa Roundabout to try and get a taxi home,” said Cllr Lancaster, who attended the My Chemical Romance gig.

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“Stuff like that is shocking because it puts people off coming, frankly.”

The Ed Sheeran concerts during that period were blamed for traffic chaos in the city and 24km queues along the M4.

Cllr Lancaster went on to ask whether there was someone who was able to take overall command of transport in the city during major events like that.

Ms Moggridge said there was little the council could do in terms of influencing what events major operators, like the Principality Stadium, could hold and when they chose to hold them.

She added: “We do go in as a highway authority afterwards and try and work with the venue operator to try and give them advice in terms of what we feel went well and what didn’t go so well and that comes out as well with our events liaison panel.”

There was also “no silver bullet” that allowed the local authority to dictate the provision of bus and rail operators, according to the council official.

Bruce Springsteen played at the Principality Stadium on Sunday, May 5. Ms Moggridge said there were no complaints that she received from concert goers for that event.

However, she said there were “some real challenges” on the day with taxi provision.

She added: “I think all cities… we do struggle with our exit patterns because when everyone exits at the same time inevitably there will be some expectation that isn’t managed to the level of those attending.”

Cardiff Council’s director of transport, planning and environment, Andrew Gregory, said there was a broader issue in the city whereby it was not capable of providing joined up transport and that this needed to improve.

In 2020, Cardiff Council set out a 10-year transport strategy aimed at getting more people to use the bus, walk and cycle across the city instead of using their cars.

Earlier this year, the council announced that it was working on plans to improve six key bus routes across the city.

There are also plans to improve rail links, with a tram-train link between Cardiff Central and Cardiff Bay currently under development, and a new bus station in the city centre looks set to open this summer.

Mr Gregory said: “I think that the underlying issue is that even with the very best people managing it [transport], you can’t magic up trains and station capacity and bus capacity when it doesn’t exist, but we have to work with what we have got.

“The other side of it is, we are trying to develop… a set of infrastructural package for Cardiff which would actually then allow some greater flexibility.”

Ms Moggridge said some of the issues around rail transport on events days were related to platform capacity and the council was currently looking at operational arrangements around stations.

She added that the Principality Stadium reached out to the council in a monthly stadium liaison group and dates for potential events were set out for the next couple of years.

“Bus operators, rail operators, know over a year in advance that there is a likelihood of there being an event on that day and when that event is nailed, they also know,” said Ms Moggridge.

“They have plenty of time, but it is that balance of health and safety vs what you want to do with somebody queuing in Central Square for three hours without any toilet provision.”

Park and Ride

Another member of the environmental scrutiny committee, Cllr Bob Derbyshire, asked whether the city needed more park and ride facilities to cope with transport on event days.

Ms Moggridge said park and ride in the city “does not cover its cost even on a major event day” and that usage could differ depending on the type of event being held in the city.

Cardiff has a dedicated park and ride facility when there is an event on in the city.

The facility that’s chosen, whether it be the Toys R Us car park in Grangetown or Cardiff West Park and Ride on Leckwith Road, depends on the size of the event.

The Toys R Us facility was used for the Bruce Springsteen concert and filled up hours before the event.

Other parking was also available for use in the city at locations like the Civic Centre.

Cardiff East Park and Ride in Pentwyn is not currently in use for events and Cardiff South Park and Ride at County Hall is currently out of action as it is being dug up as part of the new arena development.

The council and its partners look at data, including where most event-goers will be travelling from, ahead of a major event to help it manage transport in the city.

Ms Moggridge said: “Historically, we have tried using Pentwyn park and ride, but because it is on the exit route from the city, your bus would leave the venue in the city centre and you just wouldn’t see that bus for two hours by the time it got up to Pentwyn and back.

“Then you are having to provide an awful lot of buses and you are getting continued complaints about the journey there on the bus from the venue to the park and ride site.

“We tend to put our park and rides on the west of the city so that the park and ride operates really efficiently, because as people exit the city they don’t interfere with the bus movements.”

Cardiff Bus Station

Cardiff’s highly anticipated new bus station is seen as a solution to improving transport in the city, but a fixed opening date is still not clear.

A recent report from the transport commissioner’s office, which includes an application by a bus operator to alter one of its routes, shows that the bus station will be in use by June 10, 2024.

However, we understand that this is now looking unlikely to be the opening date.

It is hoped that the opening will not be too far away from this date.

Chair of the council’s environmental scrutiny committee, Cllr Owen Jones, said it was concerning that the council was still in discussions with Transport for Wales (TfW) on how the bus station would operate when there were major events on in the city.

Ms Moggridge said: “We have a good relationship with them [TfW] as I have said previously and we are now currently working in very close partnership in terms of the operational plans coming forward for the new bus station.

“Those operational plans are required to be submitted to our planning colleagues because there are two conditions still outstanding on the operation of the bus station and the design of the bus apron, but what I would say is the discussions and workshops that we have held jointly with officers and TfW officers have been very positive.”

Cardiff’s new bus station will be managed by TfW and will include 14 bus bays. However, there will be no provision for coaches.

The multi-million pound development, which is designed to offer better connections to and between different modes of sustainable transport, will also include retail space on the ground floor and offices.

Ms Moggridge added: “Lots of us have been in a room in County Hall working in partnership with them and I am hopeful that over the coming days and weeks that those plans will be finalised and submitted to us as a highways authority.

“One of the elements of those plans most definitely is event days because what happens on event days is the roads close and some buses from the north and from the east will not be able to get to the bus station so they will still terminate on Greyfriars Road and some will still terminate on Churchill Way and… Fitzamon Embankment currently.

“When they terminate at those locations, the road closures allows them to make right turns that they can’t make when the road is open.

“We are working with Transport for Wales to explain to them that it is vital that when those roads re-open post event, it is married up… seamlessly with the bus station and I think that is an element of the operational plan that we still need to work with them on.”

Protests

Another aspect of event management that the council’s highways team responds to are protests.

Ms Moggridge said the council was experiencing more and more protests that were difficult to predict.

She said: “On request, or in partnership working… I will sit in the multi-agency police command room and we then deploy staff as required who are in direct radio contact with myself and I am sat alongside South Wales Police.

“We then manage it in a way where we have to react safely to make sure our staff are safe and the protesters are safe and I then communicate then through my control room to Cardiff Bus’ control room to other operators and yes, there are delays on the road network.

“If people wish to blockade the road, unfortunately that is inevitably going to cause traffic delays, but we are good at this.”

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