Friday 17 January 2020

Boris isn't the only cakeist

In principle, it seems entirely reasonable and rational for any city facing traffic gridlock to introduce a congestion charge as part of its attempts to deter cars and reduce both congestion and pollution.  It will never be popular with motorists, but there are many policies relating to climate change which are likely to prove unpopular, and the job of politicians is to explain why they are necessary and what the problems are with the alternatives rather than simply chase popularity.  In that context, this week’s proposals from Cardiff City Council are a brave start, even if the level is being set so low as to question whether it will have the impact required.  In practice, however, such policies need to be part of an overall joined-up approach, and despite their proposed investment in improved public transport in the same timescale, I’m not convinced that Cardiff’s proposals entirely meet that test.
It still seems to be the policy of both the Council and the Welsh Government to attract major office-based employers to the centre of Cardiff, rather than adopt a more dispersed approach to growth.  This is the prime driver of commuting into the City Centre, and the result is that they are, at one and the same time, seeking to attract more commuters into Cardiff and prevent them commuting by car. 
I’m sure that they would counter by saying that their improvements to public transport will make the car journeys unnecessary by providing a suitable alternative, and that a reduction in congestion should also make those public transport journeys more punctual and reliable.  Maybe, but it seems as though the public transport improvements planned within the required timescale are mostly restricted to travel within the city itself, and since residents of Cardiff are to be exempted from the charge, the result is that those who could gain the most advantage from the public transport improvements are not subject to the same disincentive to use their cars.  Those who would pay the charge are those who are resident outside the city, and they are the people most dependent on the badly failing rail network, where improvements seem to be further in the future.  In arguing that this looks like a tax on people living in the Valleys to pay for transport improvements for Cardiff residents, Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies makes a valid point.  Whilst it’s certainly true that improvements to the frequency, capacity and reliability of the rail network are not the responsibility of Cardiff Council, that doesn’t help the commuters who depend on them.
It looks, not for the first time, as though Cardiff City Council want to have their cake and eat it; they want the income and benefits of concentrating economic development in their area and they want the benefits of attracting workers from a wider area, but they don’t want the problems caused as a result of those policies.  Somebody needs to be taking a wider view of the issues.

1 comment:

Cibwr said...

Given the ongoing saga of the bus station in Cardiff, the council strategy is a case of too little too late. The bus station will have 14 stands, down from 33 in the old bus station, buses are dispersed over the city, which defeats the object of having a transport interchange. The coach station is a mile away at Sofia Gardens, again failing the test of seamless interchange between modes of public transport. Nothing in the plan about bringing the coaches back to the centre and basing them at the back of the Central Station - where yet another massive office scheme will bring thousands more into the centre of Cardiff.