Greater connectivity is crucial for future investment

Rob Jones says better transport links are key to the success of a Cardiff Capital Region.

There has been much talk of innovative, and some would say left-field, transport projects aimed at providing greater connectivity within Cardiff and the wider city region.

A £100m cable car system connecting Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan to Cardiff Bay and the city centre; a sea plane scheme that could see routes established between the Bays of Cardiff and Swansea and further afield such as Cardiff to mid and north Wales via Bala Lake and Lake Vyrnwy. These ideas are admirable and demonstrate that the idea of ‘greater connectivity’ is central to people’s thinking, but are they financially realistic in these days of the cost / value equation.

This cannot be underestimated. If we are to continue developing a vibrant capital city, and ensure the concept of the city region is successful then ‘greater connectivity’ is crucial. Only by making Cardiff and the surrounding areas more accessible, by having a joined up transport plan, will investment flow (both development capital and jobs) into the region and lead to growth and opportunity.

However, what we need to ensure is an approach that is all encompassing and addresses issues in the right order.

The Welsh Government made the bold and correct decision to purchase Cardiff International Airport in March 2013 for £52m, but they now have to deliver to improve the links to Europe and beyond, particularly frequency of connections to the ‘international hub’.

As exciting a move it would be to develop a cable car scheme in Cardiff, spending £100m on this concept, at this time, may not necessarily be money well spent. After all, we have already seen such a scheme come in for sharp criticism in London, with The Guardian newspaper referring to the Emirates Airline cable car system in February 2013 as London’s £60m white elephant, reputedly losing £50,000 a week.

However, putting part of that £100m towards increased routes to Cardiff International Airport from key global locations such as the Middle East and China, and towards a rapid transport link from the airport to Cardiff city centre could be money very well spent. More links to international business hubs are crucial if we are to attract true global investment into Wales. Ultimately, if you want to raise the profile of the capital city, you need to be able to get there first. International businesses need to access their markets easily and their senior team need to be able to reach those markets quickly. The Welsh Government recognised this when it purchased the airport, now let’s take it to the next level.

In tandem with connecting to more global hubs, we need to push forward with ensuring there is connectivity within the region itself and indeed to our nearest global hub, London. By 2017, the mainline rail link to London Paddington will be electrified, cutting journey times by 15 minutes. This is vitally important and helps Cardiff compete with other major UK cities looking to grab international investment such as Birmingham and Manchester.

Plans to develop a Metro programme linking the city region are well under way and the Welsh Government is already investing £77m in the first phase with a total of £600m to be invested in the next five years via a mix of Welsh and UK Government money and EU funding. If global investment leading to jobs and opportunities is to be secured then workers from across South Wales need to be able to access those jobs, therefore making local connectivity crucial.

If we get the connectivity issue right, the possibilities are endless, leading to greater confidence in what Wales has to offer. Using Cardiff Waterside, funded by Aviva, as just one example; there is planning consent to develop additional office space at 1 Assembly Square (76,383 sq ft); 2 Assembly Square (110,462 sq ft); and 5 & 6 Pierhead Street (437,588 sq ft). Increased global investment in the region would make this additional office space and the jobs it would bring possible.

So let’s keep the topic of connectivity high on the priorities list, encourage conversations between business and government so we are striving for the same thing, and ensure the capital city and its surrounding region doesn’t symbolise ‘a road to nowhere’.

Rob Jones is Partner at Knight Frank. He writes this piece on behalf of Cardiff Waterside.

3 thoughts on “Greater connectivity is crucial for future investment

  1. Interesting to read a positive article around connectivity and the vital need for a modern transport infrastructure. However, a few glaring omissions are noticed. It seems to be a given that even though South Wales has three; four if we include Newport, world class ports, little is thought of investing in them. Cork has a ferry to France that runs successfully, so why isn’t a ferry from South Wales ports to France completely under the radar? Is it a confidence issue? Would Cardiff to Roscoff not offer a viable alternative fro travellers and truckers, along the whole eastern side of the UK? Another note is the assumption that our international hub is London? Yet Caridiff Rhws can accommodate Jumbo jets (unlike Bristol?) why can’t that airport be developed as ‘international’? NI with a population half of Wales has an ‘international’ airport that competes with Dublin. Of course, we would need a confident, ballsy government in Wales that would demand further devolution is such powers as Airport Passenger Duty, so looking at the failure of current team in command, to engender and encourage a confident, nation, we have to ‘dream on’it seems!

  2. There is a need for such ‘infrastructure’ developments,however surely the Cardiff City Region will be able to develop the necessary schemes and approach HMG directly for funding,without any involvement of WAG at all.The purchase of the Rhoose airport will be seen eventually as a poor decision as the ‘catchment’ area is much too small to provide the necessary customer base/commercial activity.The continued rise and rise of Bristol Airport (located in poor location for transport purposes) will huge impact on Rhoose as most people I know travel ‘over the bridge’ for flughts as they are a)more numerous/varied,b)much cheaper,even taking into account additional travel expenses/inconvenience. For welsh people living above Brecon,and to the west then a)Bristol.b)Manachester airports are used rather than travelling down to Rhoose!!.There is an economic reality in life and unfortunately we are on the wrong side,and perhaps should WORK with Bristol Airport (run and owned by Ontario teachers pension Fund) rather than compete with it!!. The NATS wont like it but who cares about them!!.

  3. Ballsy government would have long ago designated Filton the ‘West of Britain International airport’ Right on the M4/M5 junction, a short distance from the mainline railway to London and a runway that once took Concorde. But that would have required the realisation that life exists outside SE England. We are left with Bristol & Cardiff airports competing as sub optimal solutions both being a pig to reach by road or public transport.

    Just a five mile long dual carriageway directly from Culverhouse Cross to Cardiff Airport would make a big difference.

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