Nearly five years ago a railway station opened linking Cardiff with the airport. A 2 mile ride on a courtesy bus then takes passengers from the station to the terminal. The link was designed, quite obviously, to provide a public transport alternative to taking your own car to the airport. As well, there is a bus link generally running about every hour.
Now the BBC is reporting that the courtesy bus system may be withdrawn because it is costing £100,000 per year to keep open. But although it is called a courtesy bus service, train passengers probably pay for it in their ticket. According to the First Great Western website, the bus part of the ticket is valued at £3.70. Arriva who operate the train quote a fare of £3.30 from Cardiff Central to the airport station which includes the complimentary bus service. Both can’t be right.
It is the owner of the airport, TBI part of Abertis, who are talking about removing the £100,000 so maybe they subsidize it to that level. Whichever way you look at it there is some confusion on how the figures might be calculated. The BBC quotes the airport as saying that the bus carries less than 1000 passengers per week and that is why it will withdraw its funding on 31st May.
Is this a cynical way to raise more revenue since it has just announced that it is abolishing the 20 minute free parking allowance and is now charging £1 so more people will drive? Is it to coerce the Welsh Assembly which announced a little while ago that, after the upgraded signalling, trains will run every half hour after 2014 into subsiding it in place of TBI? Do they plan on letting passengers walking the last two miles? What will be the point of a station with no connection to the airport? Yes, taxis will step in but won’t train passengers find another way to get there instead? If a single fare is £3.30 you can bet the taxi fare will be greater than that.
So the £17 million spent upgrading the line and incorporating a new station could be wasted. All for £100,000. Maybe Arriva which has its own bus division should calculate the revenue loss in not having so many train passengers and dip into its pockets. Or maybe the airport should consider the help it’s been given from the Assembly and rethink its attitude.
Let’s give one cheer for integrated transport in South Wales.