We all know that Transport for Wales (TfW) run Wales’ trains and are in charge of the new Metro, but they also have other transport responsibilities and walking and cycling is likely to be an important part of them.

This month we invited Matthew Gilbert, from TfW, to be our guest speaker.

Matthew is the active travel lead officer at Transport for Wales, the Welsh Government’s not-for-profit company.  He joined in November 2018 from Bridgend County Borough Council, where he was transportation policy and strategy officer for Active Travel programme and infrastructure works.

Active Travel Ambition

Matthew Gilbert addresses the room
Matthew Gilbert from TfW

Matthew addressed the meeting emphasising the current opportunity to raise capacity for Active Travel across Wales and the role that TfW will play in delivering the rail franchise and SE Wales Metro, plus technical expertise in future Bus and highways connections.

There will be transformational change over the next fifteen years – the vision is for a fully integrated transport network for Wales, including integrated ticketing, improved access to the network, transport modelling and planning, decarbonising the transport network, and encouraging people to use public transport.

Internally, priorities include a Cycle to Work Scheme for TfW employees as well as scheme designs to rail stations. He sees these as two distinct parts to the TfW “family”.

Other priorities include developing fifty regional travel plans around railway stations in Wales, as well as working with local authorities on their Integrated Network Map (INM) stakeholder engagement with way-finding maps.

There is significant funding allocated for walking and cycling facilities around stations. This will include:

  • Links to existing NCN cycle network routes
  • Cycle spaces on trains (minimum of 2 cycle spaces per carriage)
  • Cycle storage at stations by 2023
  • Installation of cycle storage at non-valleys stations (later)
  • Accreditation for every station with secure station status
  • Improved booking facilities for cycles on trains

with future plans to include:

  • Cycle Hire integration beyond Cardiff (some councils would like to replicate the success of the Next Bike Scheme)
  • Travel Planning and work on the INMs with local authorities
  • Assist with delivery of local schemes and give support and guidance to local authorities who have little expertise
  • Looking at examples of good practice from other areas, for example Manchester, Scotland….

Discussion & questions from the audience:

Taffs Well Depot – realignment of NCN8 Taff Trail:

Plans for TfW depot at Taff’s Well

There are major shortcomings on the plans for the Taff Trail at this location. Matthew accepted the plans as they stand are not good. He has liaised with those involved and spoken to the design team working on the Stage C outline concept design. Their opinion is that it follows the existing alignment of the trail. A meeting has been arranged and there will be an amended version for the scheme in the future.  Cycle parking IS included at the depot for staff, however Matthew noted that the shift patterns for staff mean they will often be arriving and leaving their work at the beginning and ends of days when public transport finishes running. It is therefore expected that facilities such as cycle parking for staff will predominantly be used only by very local staff.

There are 16 planned bicycle spaces at the station.  Matthew suggested that a number will be identified and TfW will consider representation from a local group on what would be a good number to have here.

It was noted later in the meeting that this isn’t necessarily the best solution to how many cycle spaces may be required – people may not take bicycles to stations when they think there’s no space available and chose to lock their bicycle elsewhere – or simply not use them. PLENTY of parking spaces should be provided so that people can be sure of having somewhere safe to leave their bicycle.

Bikes on Trains

The booking process appears to be unbelievably complex and time-consuming (reports of 20 minutes wait whilst ticketing personnel try to book spaces). The audience members STRONGLY recommended TfW do NOT follow the GWR model for booking cycles.

Cycle storage needs to be clearly identified on the exterior of the rail carriages.

There are no plans to introduce booking systems for bicycles on local/valleys lines.

Cycle parking at stations

TfW say they will not be thinking about cycle storage at stations until 2023 – is this not short-sighted? What can WE do to help to bring that forward at Cardiff Central Station in particular? This could be an early win that makes life easier and can be implemented easily.

  • Matthew suggested making direct input to Cardiff Council and to be clear about how much additional parking is required? A Base-line audit has been carried out on existing capacity and usage at the time of audit. [refer again to point made regarding people not using facilities in case they are not free/available at the time they are needed – this discourages people from using bicycles to get to stations, park, and ride.]
  • Matthew will find out what the plan is for schedule of cycle parking at stations generally.

Land alongside railway lines that is currently not needed or used

Heavy rail standards are in place to prevent public access to railway lines and there are often access tracks running parallel. Could these areas be released to be used for cycling?

  • Matthew replied that each proposal is taken on its own merits (e.g. the Treherbert Corridor). But safety considerations and electrification upgrading to valleys lines is going to mean many of these areas will be required for utility equipment. If there are sections of the network that could be scoped in a different way TfW are willing to listen.

There is an old redundant railway line in Penarth where previous attempts to open this up have been rejected, now it seems a housing development is to be built alongside this line. Isn’t this an opportunity to open up the line and make it an Active Travel route for that area/new development?

  • Matthew will check with Rail Services regarding land ownership/and/or any plans for this opportunity.

Active Travel to stations – what will make people chose to walk, cycle or get a bus to a station?

TfW have a role to play to encourage and help local authorities to promote the active travel options in their areas (and this will include work through schools programmes), but a fundamental behaviour change will be needed by people making the move from car use, and this will take time.

Getting people to think about what journeys they make is an uphill struggle, exacerbated by new housing schemes where no alternative to using the car is being planned/executed within appropriate timescales.

There is still a status associated with car ownership model. 92% of the time cars are parked and not used. When we say let’s use the space to enable people to travel then there is an outcry. The move towards electric vehicles won’t be the answer to congestion, but perhaps people will see mobility in a different way, e.g. getting people to think about hiring a car when they need it, then space is freed up.

Integrated network maps (INM) and joining up routes across local authority boundaries

Matthew reported that the Deputy Minister is not happy with INMs produced. A lot of areas could be improved in the next round. TfW raises levels and capabilities across local authorities and will provide assistance and guidance in their approach, and will also support cross border opportunities where active travel is evident.

If I were to ask my AM about Active Travel, where in Welsh Government would I go to influence future planning?

In the assembly Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport – and for Welsh Government the relevant Director is Simon Jones.

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