Cardiff Study

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, and is rapidly redeveloping its old docklands with shops, leisure facilities, offices and homes. A case study assessing the potential for ULTra PRT was conducted in 2004, which focused on the Phase 1 PRT network shown on the right which connects the city centre rail stations (Central and Queens Street), and the shopping area around them, with the rapidly developing Cardiff Bay area about 1.5km to the south. The report concluded that:

ULTra offers Cardiff a financially strong transport solution which would provide an exceptional level of performance:

  • ULTra easily covers its operating costs
  • System comes very close to covering capital costs at standard public sector 6% discount factor even at the low £1 fare assumed (and in practice is likely to do so completely as travel patterns adapt to make more use of PRT).
  • Surveys of passengers riding the prototype show they are willing to pay several times this fare, and are very enthusiastic about all aspects of the system.
  • Commuters transferring from car to public transport plus PRT increase bus and rail use by 5%.
  • Large social benefits give a very good rate of return:  +£133M NPV, benefit/cost ratio 392%, first year rate of return 27%
  • Conventional public transport cannot meet this performance.

The proposed Cardiff ULTra network; the Phase 1 network (red) is assessed in detail, blue shows envisaged future expansion. ULTra PRT would provide high quality access to the Bay Area, with fast, nonstop, no-waiting and private access direct to the major attractions. Transit time from Central Station to the Bay Area is about 5 minutes and a £1 fare per vehicle was assumed (about 70p per passenger at average occupancies).

Cardiff Objectives

  • Improve public transport connections between city centre and rapidly developing Bay Area
  • Support Cardiff’s development as a thriving and attractive European Capital City, serving commercial, retail and leisure activities in the Bay
  • Protect and enhance the new environment, encouraging transfer from car to public transport and reducing air pollution from traffic

Cardiff Bay

The recent waterfront developments contain new offices, shops and leisure facilities, and a substantial amount of new residential development between the waterfront and the central area. The Bay area also contains the Welsh National Assembly building, the new opera house under construction, and the Cardiff County Council offices.

A view of Cardiff Bay.

Financial Prediction

  • Total capital cost (including vehicles) £4.5M per guideway km
  • Annual operating cost £2.05M
  • Revenue £4.30M
  • System not only covers operating costs but also
  • Returns about 6% on capital investment

Net Present Value over 30-year life of benefits plus revenue less operating and capital costs: +£133M if discounted at standard 6%

System Performance

The demand levels for the Phase 1 network were predicted by logit modal split modelling calibrated on Stated Preference surveys. The analysis found:

  • 5.7 million passengers per year
  • A cost of £0.72 per person per trip
  • Attracts 8% commuters from car, 60% bus users, 9% from short walks
  • Average waiting time 0.3 minutes – most passengers don’t wait at all
  • Attitude surveys of riders on prototype vehicle show very positive acceptance
  • Disability audit shows system is more accessible to disabled and elderly people than conventional public transport

System Benefits

The benefits were assessed using standard social cost-benefit methodology, which found:

  • Saves 900 hours of passenger travel time per day (average 3.5 minutes/passenger)
  • Saves 65,500 car-kms per day
  • Transfer from car saves congestion worth £1.7M per year
  • Reduced road traffic casualties (mainly pedestrian) saves £0.5M per year
  • Saving in energy equivalent to 3M litres of fuel per year
  • Net reduction in pollutants of 45 tonnes of CO, 3.5 tonnes VOCs, 5.7 tonnes NOx, 0.3 tonnes particulates, 3750 tonnes of CO2
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