CHRISTMAS shoppers in the Welsh capital have been spared traffic chaos after council officials last night postponed a controversial one-way system experiment.
Cardiff Council had been due to divert up to 120 northbound buses an hour along Westgate Street from Monday.
Under the plans being considered, St Mary Street would only be open to buses travelling south, towards the central bus station, which will itself be demolished next year.
But the council has now delayed the experiment following concerns from bus operators. The trial could go ahead next year, after the Christmas rush.
Bus operators have warned the one-way system will create safety problems and a “bus pinch point” at the junction of Westgate Street and Castle Street.
And they have spoken of their frustration at the lack of consultation about the scheme – they were only informed of the changes on Friday, a week before they should have been introduced.
But Cardiff Council said it is continuing discussions with bus operators.
John Gould, managing director of Stagecoach South Wales, which operates buses to and from Cardiff from across South East Wales and the valleys, said, “Westgate Street will become a bus pinch point with huge volumes of buses every hour trying to turn left and right into Castle Street.
“We have genuine fears for safety and for operator reliability which we believe will follow such a change. We welcomed the closure of St Mary Street to other traffic as it has improved reliability of our services, but we believe this one-way system will take more than a backwards step.”
Newport Bus is due to introduce a new half-hourly express service between Newport and Cardiff on Monday, with passenger stops in St Mary Street.
Ironically, the company has only recently stopped using Westgate Street, in favour of St Mary Street following the initial traffic changes three months ago.
Trevor Roberts, the company’s managing director, said, “We believe there will be health and safety concerns with the volume of traffic going along Westgate Street, where there are only three bus shelters.”
Steve Pantak, chairman of Cardiff Bus, who is also a Cardiff councillor, said, “These proposed one-way changes would create a major inconvenience for passengers who will have to either go to the bus station, Greyfriars Road or Kingsway.”
And John Pockett, director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport Wales, added, “The sheer number of buses leaving the bus station into Westgate Street and arriving at the Angel Hotel junction is a real concern.
“While it was felt the changes in St Mary Street brought in during August were an improvement, these latest proposals are viewed as a backward step.”
Although the one-way experiment has been delayed, work will continue in St Mary Street to widen the pavements for pedestrians – it is expected that a 20mph speed limit will also be imposed.
Tom Morgan, corporate director at Cardiff Council, said, ““This latest experiment is aimed at giving pedestrians priority by creating a wider, safer area for them.”