July 16, 2008
Airport Routes More Important Than a Road
WHY does access to Cardiff International Airport cause such anguished debate, and why, every few years, do we need a new study to look at it?
Most of us only go there once a year and when you get there the local roads around the airport aren't heavily congested.
Airports are not themselves the destination, they are an interchange where you change from the car, bus or train onto an aircraft to take you to your final destination. Aircraft depart at fixed times and passengers arriving by car need to have certainty of journey times. Directing airport traffic along congested roads gives the impression that the airport is remote and difficult to get to and it is expected that a capital city will have an airport that is accessible.
The present access route to Cardiff Airport runs from Junction 33 on the M4 along the Cardiff Peripheral Distributor Road to Culverhouse Cross, onto the A4050 around Wenvoe and then the A4226 around Barryto the Airport. Complaints have been made in the past that traffic measures around Wenvoe, designed to make the road safer, have slowed traffic speeds.
Traffic for the airport travelling at peak times, although only a small percentage of the total, has to contend with congestion on one of the main routes into Cardiff, congestion at Culverhouse Cross where a number of developments that are dependent on the car have been allowed, and then contend with congestion on the main route around the north of Barry.
Some of us avoid Wenvoe and Barry by using the A48 from Culverhouse Cross through St.
Nicholas and then down the A4226 (Five Mile Lane) to the Airport. Others try a more cross-country route from Junction 34 on the M4 to Pendoylan and then use lanes too narrow for two-way traffic to again join Five Mile Lane to the Airport.
The options outlined in the current study for airport access are based on a choice from these three routes with upgrades to the chosen route and improvements at Culverhouse Cross, regardless of which option is chosen.
One route (Corridor A) follows the existing route from Junction 33 through Culverhouse Cross and Wenvoe. Capacity would be increased on the Peripheral Distributor Road between Junction 33 and Culverhouse Cross which would then be bypassed. Traffic would join an improved A4050 down to the airport.
The second option (Corridor B) would still have a western bypass for Culverhouse Cross but traffic for the airport would have to pass through Culverhouse Cross junction onto the A48. The route then bypasses St.
Nicholas and joins an improved Five Mile Lane down to the airport.
The third option (Corridor C) completely avoids the Peripheral Distributor Road and runs from Junction 34 bypassing Pendoylan and joining an improved Five Mile Lane down to the airport.
Corridors A and B have the disadvantage of still using the Peripheral Distributor Road and having to contend with traffic congestion around Cardiff, even if the scheme does allow for increased capacity.
Corridor C takes traffic to the airport away from congestion around Cardiff and Barry and has the advantage of providing a direct route from Barry to the motorway. However traffic will inevitably use part of the new road as an extra access route for Cardiff and increase traffic flows along the A48 through St.
Nicholas. It is surprising that the option of a park and ride facility at Junction 34 to reduce Cardiff bound traffic hasn't been included.
There are also recommendations for improvements in passenger transport to the airport to try and move some of the airport traffic away from the car. The train service should increase initially to two trains an hour and the frequency of the existing limited-stop bus service should be increased and service hours extended. Medium term options include moving the railway station nearer to the airport and some long distance rail services continuing from Cardiff to the airport railway station.
The road will not by itself substantially increase the number of passengers at Cardiff Airport.
Those passengers who travel to airports in England are attracted by the range and frequency of routes and the airport and the Welsh Assembly Government need to continue to work together on this. However the road will provide an access route for the new Defence Training Academy at St Athan and could enhance business development around the airport.
Martin Evans is External Research Fellow in the Wales Transport Research Centre at the University of Glamorgan
What are the options?
IMPROVING access to Cardiff International Airport, the options: OPTION A:Widening to three lanes the A4232 Ely Link from the M4 Junction 33 (Cardiff West) to Culverhouse Cross.
Traffic would be diverted around Culverhouse on a new bypass then join the A4050, the current airport link. The road would be improved in parts with new stretches built altogether.
OPTION B: Improving the A4232 from J33 to Culverhouse Cross. Vehicles would be taken off before Culverhouse onto a new bypass link to the A48 Tumble Hill. Traffic would travel to Sycamore Cross then join the A4226 Five Mile Lane through the Vale of Glamorgan. The existing road would be improved in parts with new stretches built, allowing speed limits to increase.
OPTION C: Taking traffic off the M4 at Junction 34 (Miskin) down through Hensol and towards the A48 at Sycamore Cross and onto Five Mile Lane.
It would again be improved with new, straighter stretches added.
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