Everything we know about Cardiff’s proposed congestion charge

RESIDENTS in Cardiff could be made to pay for a possible future congestion charge in the city despite suggestions in the past that they might be exempt.

Cardiff Council yesterday announced that it could be set to consider a road user charge.

The authority said that any future road user payment, aimed at improving air quality and reducing congestion, could be used to improve public transport in Cardiff by going towards a number of initiatives like a city wide tram system and an improved bus network.

Cardiff Council added that several improvements to public transport in the city would have to be up and running before any payment scheme is brought in.

However, there is an long way to go before any charge is approved.

The council’s cabinet will meet on Thursday April 27 to discuss and make a decision on plans to begin a project looking into different road user payment schemes.

Potential schemes include but are not limited to road user payments, congestion zones, clean air zones and workplace parking charges.

Should the council’s cabinet members give the go ahead to the project next week, it will kick start years of research, analysis and consultation.

Here is everything we know about the council’s plans so far.

Who could be affected by the charge?

Cardiff Council’s transport white paper from 2020 states that a potential future charging scheme would be targeted at vehicles coming into Cardiff.

The report states: “Our preferred option would include an exemption for Cardiff residents from any charge.”

However, the leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, suggested that this might no longer be the case.

At a press conference on Monday April 17 when the council made its announcement on potential future road payments, Cllr Thomas said Cardiff people could have to pay as well.

Afterwards Cllr Thomas said: “Our priority is about having the smallest possible impact on Cardiff residents.

“At the same time, there is a question of equity.

“It has also been indicated to us by the Welsh Government that they were not countenance to charge a payment where Cardiff residents do not contribute, but there are certainly models out there, in London for example, where residents experience a very heavy discount on any payment.

“Our intention throughout and remains that any charge for anybody coming into the city would be on a low cost basis in any case.”

Again, it should be stressed that no final decision has been made on any payment scheme and there is still a lot of work to be done before there are any certainties here.

How much could a road user charge cost?

As there is still a lot of work to be done, it is not yet known for certain how much road users could be charged if a payment scheme is brought in.

In the council’s transport white paper, the council used the example of a £2 per day charge when raising the possibility of a future road user payment scheme to reduce air pollution and congestion.

The report said: “As part of a robust decision making process we will consider
a wide range of possible charging mechanisms which will include some form of Road User charging.

“Any revenues raised from such a scheme would be spent directly on public transport.

“This could take many different forms but one example could entail a scheme whereby all vehicles driving into Cardiff would pay a low fee (e.g. £2/day) for crossing into a charging area.”

However, it is not yet known what type of scheme the council could go for and it has already been shown that potential aspects of a future scheme mentioned in the 2020 white paper could be subject to change.

The project work will look at a number of factors in relation to charging, including users who may need to be exempt, reimbursed or who qualify for discounts.

In their press briefing, the authority gave the example of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), where residents qualify for a 90% discount on the congestion charge, when pointing to the possability of price variation depending on who pays.

How long will it take for a payment scheme to come in?

If the council’s cabinet members give the go ahead for the project to commence next week, it is expected that the a scheme could be implemented in about five years.

To begin with, the council would need to investigate the different schemes available before bringing forward any proposals to be consulted on.

Engagement with stakeholders is expected to begin April or May. This will help to identify the various options for consultation which could take place in late 2023.

The council has targeted the end of 2024 for a cabinet decision on a road user payment scheme, after which detailed design and all the associated planning can take place.

This, along with the completion of the legal and financial requirements is expected to be done by the end of 2025.

With the implementation of the scheme expected to take place by 2027 or 2028, the parallel implementation of schemes which would be funded by the road user payment could be done by 2026 or 2027.

All of these dates could be subject to change and are just an estimation at this point.

What would the money from a road user payment be spent on?

If it is implemented, the money raised from a road user payment scheme would be set aside for improvements in public transport.

Aided by Government funding contributions, the money raised through a future scheme could go towards a number of initiatives, including:

A metro city-wide tram system, including Cardiff Crossrail a circle line and new stations with a minimum of four trams an hour
A prioritized bus network across the city with more reliable services
Delivery of an electric bus and taxi fleet
The completion of the Eastern Bay Link
Sustainable travel incentives, like travel discounts, tickets and bike purchase vouchers
Some of the initiatives that could be available before any road user payment is introduced include the introduction of a £1 bus fare, an expanded bus service, enhanced frequency on the Coryton and City Line and improvements to regional commuting.

What happens next?

Before the council’s cabinet meets on April 27, its environmental scrutiny committee will meet on Monday April 24 to consider the plans to move ahead with the project.

That meeting begins at 5.30pm and you can watch it live here.

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