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On the move: fixing miserable commuting in Wales

The results are shocking and envy-inducing, especially if you’ve spent a good chunk of your morning in an unjustifiably-long commute already. In Nantes, for example, nearly three quarters (72 percent) of residents can connect to the city centre by public transport in peak time, compared to just half (50.4 percent) of residents in Cardiff. The relatively weak public transport offer is therefore contributing to Wales’s commuters’ reliance on the car - and this isn’t even an option for the one in five households that doesn’t own a vehicle. 

Centre for Cities makes a range of recommendations, including setting out the reasons why urban planners should prioritise creating homes around public transport stations and stops. 
They advise that in the case of Swansea, Newport and Wrexham “the most fruitful improvements to public transport in these places are likely to be around expanding the number of high-precision, low frequency services that could serve edge-of-town industrial estates and business parks to match work patterns, as has been done in places like Sunderland and Bristol,”. They also make the case for exempting buses from the 20mph speed limit and exploring the potential for bus franchising – which Welsh Government has already been doing.

Subsidisation is also crucial to getting commuters out of their cars and onto public transport. Centre for Cities sets out a number of revenue-raising ideas, recommending different measures to suit the various profiles of urban labour markets including:

•    Congestion charging: Given the concentration of jobs in Cardiff’s centre and its higher level of congestion, this is likely to be far more appropriate there than elsewhere. Unlike the current model being discussed, this charge would be better targeted if it focused on the centre of Cardiff, as the congestion charge operates in London, rather than it being a charge for entering the Cardiff local authority area.

•    Workplace parking levies (WPL): A WPL charges businesses for their parking spaces, and is already in use in Nottingham.

•    Tax devolution: The Welsh Government should ask the UK Government for powers to raise fuel duty and use revenue to support public transport services.

•    Tax precepts and supplements: Precepts on council tax and supplements on business rates (both of which have been used in London) are options to raise revenue locally, while the Welsh Government could use its powers around income tax to create a system similar to the French, where a local income tax contribution is a common way of funding transport networks.

•    Cross subsidisation from other parts of the network: as the London Underground does for the London bus network. The South Wales Metro and the Cardiff Crossrail and Circle train-tram lines open up the possibility for this to happen. 

Centre for Cities, 2023