1930s frontage of Cardiff Central station (northern entrance)
|Location||Cardiff, City and County of Cardiff|
|Owned by||Network Rail|
|Managed by||Transport for Wales|
|Classification||DfT category A|
|19 June 1850||Opened as Cardiff|
|1924||Renamed Cardiff General|
|1940||Merged with Cardiff Riverside station|
|1964||Riverside platforms closed|
|1973||Renamed Cardiff Central|
Passenger statistics from the Office of Rail and Road
Cardiff Central railway station (Welsh: Caerdydd Canolog) is a major station on the South Wales Main Line, located in the capital of Wales, Cardiff. It is one of the city's two urban rail network hubs, along with Cardiff Queen Street. Opened in 1850 as Cardiff station, it was renamed Cardiff General in 1924, and then Cardiff Central in 1973.
Cardiff Central is one of twenty railway stations in the city and one of two in the city centre, serving as a hub for the Valleys & Cardiff Local Routes. It is an interchange for services between South Wales, West Wales and North Wales, as well as other major British cities.
Transport for Wales operates services to most destinations in Wales and to Manchester; while CrossCountry operates trains to Gloucester, Birmingham and Nottingham. Great Western Railway runs all London Paddington intercity services via Bristol and to Swansea, as well as some regional services to Bath, Taunton and Portsmouth via Southampton Central.
In the early 1840s the South Wales Railway was trying to find a suitable site for a railway station, but the area that is now Cardiff Central railway station was prone to flooding. It was Isambard Kingdom Brunel's solution to divert the River Taff to the west, creating a larger and safer site for the station. The initial part of the South Wales Railway between Chepstow and Swansea through Cardiff was opened on 18 June 1850, with all trains operated by the Great Western Railway (GWR) under a lease agreement.[page needed] Through services from Cardiff to London Paddington began on 19 July 1852, when the Chepstow Railway Bridge was opened, completing the connection between the South Wales Railway and the Great Western Railway. The South Wales Railway was absorbed into the GWR in 1863.
Cardiff to London trains originally ran via the circuitous route via Gloucester and took an average of five hours. This was reduced to around four hours from 1886 when the Severn Tunnel was opened creating a shorter route via Bristol and Bath. In 1903 another shortcut, the Badminton railway line was opened, bypassing Bath and Bristol, and this reduced the Cardiff-London journey times by another hour. By the 1930s, the fastest Cardiff-London trains took around 2 hours 40 minutes, and this remained fairly static until 1961, when the diesel Blue Pullman service reduced the fastest journey time to 2 hours 7 minutes. In October 1976 the current InterCity 125 service was introduced, reducing the fastest journey times to 1 hour 53 minutes.
The original 'Cardiff' station as it was then known had four through tracks running through the site, and consisted of two through platforms each with its own bay platform. During the 1890s the station underwent considerable expansion, in 1896 a flying junction was constructed connecting the station to nearby Cardiff Queen Street station, and extra platforms were added to accommodate the new Taff Vale services, bringing the total number up to six.
Between 1931 and 1934, the station underwent a major rebuild, designed by the GWR's architects department under their chief architect Percy Emerson Culverhouse, the centrepiece of this was a new Art Deco entrance building faced in Portland stone, containing a booking hall and concourse with noted Art Deco light fittings, all topped by a clock cupola. The current Art Deco lamps in the booking hall are replicas of the originals, installed in 1999, having been funded by the Railway Heritage Trust. A GWR war memorial is located at the eastern end of the concourse.
The Great Western Railway has its full name carved onto the façade (larger than the name of the station). The rebuild also saw a number of other improvements including the lengthening of the platforms, the widening of the Taff River railway bridge to allow the approach lines to the station to be quadrupled, and the installation of colour-light signalling. The rebuild of the station cost the GWR £820,000 (equivalent to £58,640,000 in 2019),, and was formally opened by the then Minister of Transport Oliver Stanley on 26 February 1934.
In July 1934, the GWR began a pioneering diesel railcar service with a buffet between Cardiff General and Birmingham Snow Hill which had only two stops at Newport and Gloucester. This was the first long distance diesel express service in Britain, covering the 117.5 miles (189.1 km) between Cardiff and Birmingham in 2 hours 20 minutes. It proved so successful that larger railcars with more seating and no buffet had to be introduced to cope with demand, and even this had to be augmented by a normal locomotive hauled service. During the Second World War, two such trains ran to and from Cardiff daily. At this time it consisted of a three car train consisting of a standard carriage sandwiched between two railcars, and a stop at Stratford-upon-Avon was introduced.
Cardiff Riverside railway station
On 14 August 1893 the GWR opened the adjacent Cardiff Riverside station which had two platforms located to the south of and adjacent to the main Cardiff station which curved away to the south on the Cardiff Riverside Branch, which ran to its terminus at Clarence Road about one mile to the south. Riverside station was rebuilt as an island platform with two platform faces in the early 1930s at the same time as Cardiff General was being rebuilt. On 28 October 1940 Riverside station was formally incorporated into Cardiff General station with its platforms being designated 8 and 9. The Riverside platforms were closed for passenger use on 16 March 1964, but they continued to be used for parcels and newspaper traffic for a number of years after. They were demolished in 1994 after becoming disused.
21st century developments
In June 2010, Network Rail began its £5 billion Great Western electrification project which promised the construction of overhead line equipment, station improvements, and resignalling along parts of the Great Western Main Line and the South Wales Main Line. The changes would see the retirement of InterCity 125 trains on London services, and the introduction of Hitachi-designed British Rail Class 800 electric trains, under a side project named the Intercity Express Programme.
Plans to install overhead equipment as far as Swansea were withdrawn in 2017 when the Department for Transport announced it would no longer fund the Cardiff-Swansea project, instead ordering bi-mode trains which switch to diesel when departing Cardiff for west Wales. Electrification to Cardiff was to be completed by 2018, but late that year Network Rail announced that completion would be delayed a further year.
The first electric services began at Cardiff Central on 5 January 2020, starting with a single 5-car Class 800 forming the 08:50 Cardiff to London. As of January 2020, trains have remained unable to operate on electric power through the Severn Tunnel. This has been attributed to difficult operating conditions in the 133-year-old tunnel.
In 2011 it was announced that Cardiff Central would be enhanced with a new platform ('Platform 8') and a new two-storey southern entrance and booking hall. This was part of a £200m regeneration scheme to boost train capacity in Cardiff and the surrounding areas. With work planned to start from June 2014, the Assembly Government committed £7m for the overall programme.
The new entrance on the south side of the station, was opened in September 2015, and the new platform 8 on the south side of the station, opened in January 2017, allowing the number of trains on the busy Cardiff Central to Cardiff Queen Street corridor to be increased from 12 to 16 per hour. This was opened in conjunction with a resignalling scheme in the station, which saw all of the station's platforms signalled to become bi-directional, in order to increase the flexibility of the operations.
A major redevelopment scheme began in 2015 of Central Square in front of the main station entrance, of which Network Rail owned part. 500,000 square feet of new office space were planned for the area formerly occupied by Cardiff Central bus station. The landscaping, designed to create a positive impression to visitors exiting the railway station, would include a major pedestrianised route between the railway station and the Millennium Stadium.
In 2015, plans were unveiled to substantially redevelop the station in order to cope with the expected rise in passenger numbers, which are projected to rise from the current 13 million to 32 million by 2043. The proposed redevelopment would see an enlarged glass fronted concourse which would leave the current 1930s façade intact.
It was announced in July 2019 that significant upgrades would take place at Cardiff Central under a £38m improvement project, which also proposes a £20m West Wales Parkway station north of Swansea in order to reduce journey times between Cardiff and West Wales.
Station layout and platforms
The southern entrance is at the rear of the station on Tresillian Way, accessed from Penarth Road, where the station car park is found.
The railway lines are above the station concourses. Two subways, one each at the eastern and western side of the station, run parallel under the tracks linking the two main entrances, from which the platforms are accessed by stairs and lifts, with the exception of Platform 0 which is accessed from the main concourse near Marks and Spencer.
Cardiff Central has eight platforms, numbered 0, 1, 2, 3a/b, 4a/b, 6, 7 and 8. There is no longer, despite signage, a Platform 5; this was a west-facing bay platform situated between Platforms 3 and 4 which was removed in the 1960s. Platform 0, a short through platform at the north of the station was created in 1999.
The station has ten tracks running through it. All but two of the tracks have an adjacent platform, and the remaining two are through lines for goods trains and other non-stopping traffic.
Platforms 3 and 4 are divided into 'A' and 'B' sections and are capable of holding two local trains or a nine car Class 800 train. Other platforms can be used by more than one train, but are not sectioned.
Platforms 0 to 4 are typically used by longer distance regional and national services operated by Transport for Wales, Great Western Railway, and CrossCountry to destinations including London Paddington, Birmingham New Street, Bristol Temple Meads, Carmarthen, Derby, Nottingham, Gloucester, Manchester Piccadilly, Milford Haven, Taunton, Portsmouth Harbour, Swansea, Holyhead and Chester.
To the West of the station lies Canton TMD, operated by Transport for Wales, as well as the junction splitting trains to Penarth and the Vale of Glamorgan, Swansea, and Valley line services via Ninian Park and Radyr. To the East of the station lies Cardiff Queen Street (for Cardiff local and Valley Line services), and the mainline toward Newport, Bristol and London.
The majority of facilities are in the main concourse, including ticket desks and machines, cash machines, an information desk, departure and arrival screens, public telephones, a newsagent, and food shops. The station has the only First Class waiting room in Wales. Outside, an pay-and-display car park provides 248 spaces.
Additional ticket barriers were installed in the main entrance of the station in November 2019 as part of plans to reduce congestion at the station at peak times. A study found that the station can see over 40,000 people use the station on major event days in the city. The work was funded by Transport for Wales, who also aim to refurbish toilets, install more ticket machines, phone charging points, and build cycle storage in 2020. Cardiff Central‘s customer numbers are forecast to top 34 million users annually by 2043.
In January 2020, Transport for Wales installed a dedicated passenger assistance meeting point in the ticket hall of the station, stating it would provide a comfortable and identifiable location for those needing assistance to wait while their booked assistance is prepared, for example the preparation of boarding aids.
|Railway lines in Cardiff|
Three train operators run services to Cardiff Central, a summary is as follows:
- Transport for Wales:
- Operate frequent local commuter services on the local urban rail network known as the Valleys & Cardiff Local Routes.
- Operate regional services predominantly within South Wales and West Wales to destinations including Swansea, Ebbw Vale Town, Carmarthen, Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock, Maesteg and Cheltenham Spa via Chepstow, typically on an hourly or two-hourly frequency.
- Operate longer distance services, including an hourly service to Manchester Piccadilly, and a two-hourly service to Holyhead, both via the Welsh Marches Line. A premium daily return service to Holyhead known as the Premier Service is also run.
- Infrequent boat trains to and from Fishguard Harbour, connecting with the Stena Line ferry to Rosslare Harbour in Ireland.
- Great Western Railway:
- Operate two trains per hour (tph) to London Paddington via Newport, Bristol Parkway, Swindon and Reading, one of these hourly services terminates at Cardiff and the other continues to Swansea.
- Operate an hourly service to Portsmouth Harbour and an hourly service to Taunton, both running via Bristol Temple Meads, with a small number carrying on to Penzance
On 4 May 1998, eleven wagons of freight train which was carrying iron ore from Port Talbot derailed just east of the station, causing substantial damage to the track, as well as blocking the main line into the station. This caused enormous disruption to the services which lasted for several days. No-one however was injured in the incident.
To the east of the platforms, the Valley Lines tracks rise up and cross over the South Wales Main Line using a bridge. Rail services were severely disrupted in August 2012 when the retaining wall between the tracks partially collapsed, spilling five tonnes of earth. The South Wales Main Line was swiftly reopened, but all services between Cardiff Central and Cardiff Queen Street were cancelled, with a replacement bus service operating. It was expected that repairs could take two weeks. There were worries that the bronze medal match in the 2012 Summer Olympics men's football competition, held at the nearby Cardiff Millennium Stadium could be disrupted, but most fans were due to arrive by the main line rather than the Valley Lines. There had been severe congestion at the station earlier in the month due to another Olympic match.
In December 2016, a serious accident was narrowly averted by the alertness of a driver. During the Cardiff Area Resignalling Scheme, a set of points had been left in an unsafe condition, and undetectable by the signalling system. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch report into the incident revealed that lessons learnt following the Clapham Junction rail crash in December 1988 appeared to have been forgotten. Excessive working hours and a lack of detailed planning were cited as contributory factors.
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