Published: 25th January 2015
The two busiest stations in Wales have seen much construction work over the last 18 months or so and the benefits are now clear to see at Cardiff Queen Street. The modernisation and construction of the new platform at Cardiff, to be numbered 8, and the associated new southern entrance to the station will not be complete for another year.
This work will enable the ever busier Cardiff Valley rail network to continue to function as Cardiff Central and Queen Street account for 12.5 million passengers annually, or two thirds of the passenger demand on that network railway. This will be further boosted with the addition of several other new platforms at other stations on the network.
The work at Cardiff Central will see the southern entrance re-opened with a modern landmark entrance which can now be visualised following the erection of the steelwork shell. The old Great Western Railway southern entrance was closed years ago but the redevelopment of the area to the south of the station brought about the demand for it to be re-opened.
A lot of work has been in evidence on the south side of Cardiff Central and this was to install a retaining wall to allow an extra line for Valley Lines’ services to use the new platform. Drilling went down over 100 metres to source a ground heat pump supply to be used to heat or cool the station as required. The new south-side entrance will have lifts to the new platform installed.
One of the more difficult activities is to relocate the myriad of cables which run alongside the edge of the track where the new line will be built to serve platform 8. These are being moved on two nights a week and great care must be taken or signalling failures could result causing delays and bringing delay payments to train operating companies from Network Rail.
Cardiff Central had a new platform built on the north side constructed a few years ago and this was numbered 0. Why was this so? Because if the platform numbers were changed to accommodate this platform, all the signalling would have had to have been altered at a huge cost. This was also the same at Kings Cross five years ago when the former cab road was converted into a railway line.
Cardiff Queen Street similarly was ‘rationalised as rail use declined in the 1970s and 80s and the remaining three platforms could not cope with the number of passengers or trains. The work there has seen the re-opening of two platforms and an easier more reliable method of train operation through the station.
The new Platform 5 is for longer distance services going via Pontypridd and the new ‘Bay’ platform, No. 1 is used for the Cardiff Bay shuttle services. These used to go from platform 2 which is now used for City Line and Penarth trains. Platform 4 is now used for Rhymney and Coryton services and Platform 3 used for Barry and trains to Bridgend via the Vale of Glamorgan line.
Cardiff Queen Street also has a new entrance and has been made disabled traveller compliant with new lifts installed. All these works were slightly delayed with the discovery of asbestos when the lift shafts were being dug out.
The works at Queen Street have also included new track and associated signalling and the whole Cardiff area upgrade is costing £220 million being funded by Network Rail and the Welsh Government.
Other new platforms have been, or are being built at Barry and Pontypridd plus track upgrades at Caerphilly, Tir-Phil, and Cogan with improved line-speeds on the Cardiff City Line
The overall project is scheduled for completion by the end of this year and the funders say that this will ‘future proof’ the railway by increasing capacity for potential new passenger services as well as giving a more robust and flexible operating infrastructure to maintain and improve train reliability and punctuality.
On top of all this, the lines around Cardiff will be electrified over the next few years and new intercity trains built be Hitachi introduced. There will be an amount of disruption and delay but, the end result will be worth it even if it will be a year late as is being reported.