Cardiff Central railway station

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Cardiff Central National Rail
Welsh: Caerdydd Canolog
Cardiff Central station (26526139271).jpg
1930s frontage of Cardiff Central station (northern entrance)
Local authorityCity and County of Cardiff
Coordinates51°28′32″N 3°10′41″W / 51.4755°N 3.1780°W / 51.4755; -3.1780Coordinates: 51°28′32″N 3°10′41″W / 51.4755°N 3.1780°W / 51.4755; -3.1780
Grid referenceST181758
Station codeCDF
Managed byTransport for Wales
Owned byNetwork Rail
Number of platforms8
DfT categoryA
Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
Annual rail passenger usage*
2013/14Increase 11.740 million
– Interchange Increase 1.698 million
2014/15Increase 11.939 million
– Interchange Increase 1.755 million
2015/16Increase 12.745 million
– Interchange Increase 1.853 million
2016/17Decrease 12.535 million
– Interchange Increase 1.901 million
2017/18Increase 12.952 million
– Interchange Increase 1.949 million
19 June 1850Opened as Cardiff
1924Renamed Cardiff General
1940Merged with Cardiff Riverside station
1964Riverside platforms closed
1973Renamed Cardiff Central
National RailUK railway stations
* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Cardiff Central from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.

Cardiff Central railway station (Welsh: Caerdydd Canolog, formerly ‘Cardiff General’) is a major station on the South Wales Main Line in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, and one of two hubs of the city's urban rail network.

Cardiff Central is in Central Square in the city centre. It is a Grade II listed building managed by Transport for Wales. It is the largest and busiest station in Wales.

Cardiff Central is one of 20 train stations in the city and one of two in the centre, the other being Cardiff Queen Street, both of which are hubs for the Valleys & Cardiff Local Routes. It is an interchange for services between South and West Wales, and other major British cities. Great Western Railway runs intercity services to London Paddington via Bristol and to Swansea, and regional services to Bath, Taunton and Portsmouth via Southampton; Transport for Wales operates services to many destinations in Wales; and CrossCountry operates trains to Gloucester, Birmingham, Nottingham and Manchester.


Early history[edit]

In the early 1840s the South Wales Railway was trying to find a suitable site for a railway station, but the area that is now Cardiff Central railway station was prone to flooding. It was Isambard Kingdom Brunel's solution to divert the River Taff to the west, creating a larger and safer site for the station.[1] The initial part of the South Wales Railway between Chepstow and Swansea through Cardiff was opened on 18 June 1850, with all trains operated by the Great Western Railway (GWR) under a lease agreement.[2][page needed] Through services from Cardiff to London Paddington began on 19 July 1852, when the Chepstow Railway Bridge was opened, completing the connection between the South Wales Railway and the Great Western Railway. The South Wales Railway was absorbed into the GWR in 1863.[3]

The South Wales Railway had originally been built as a broad-gauge railway, but on the weekend of 11–12 May 1872, the entire South Wales system was converted to standard gauge.[3]

Cardiff to London trains originally ran via the circuitous route via Gloucester and took an average of five hours. This was reduced to around four hours from 1886 when the Severn Tunnel was opened creating a shorter route via Bristol and Bath. In 1903 another shortcut, the Badminton railway line was opened, bypassing Bath and Bristol, and this reduced the Cardiff-London journey times by another hour. By the 1930s, the fastest Cardiff-London trains took around 2 hours 40 minutes, and this remained fairly static until 1961, when the diesel Blue Pullman service reduced the fastest journey time to 2 hours 7 minutes. In October 1976 the current InterCity 125 service was introduced, reducing the fastest journey times to 1 hour 53 minutes.[4]

The original 'Cardiff' station as it was then known had four through tracks running through the site, and consisted of two through platforms each with its own bay platform. During the 1890s the station underwent considerable expansion, in 1896 a flying junction was constructed connecting the station to nearby Cardiff Queen Street station, and extra platforms were added to accommodate the new Taff Vale services, bringing the total number up to six.[5]

Initially named Cardiff, the station was renamed Cardiff General in July 1924 and then Cardiff Central by British Rail in May 1973.[6][7]

1930s rebuild[edit]

The interior of the concourse looking west

Between 1931 and 1934, the station underwent a major rebuild, designed by the GWR's architects department under their chief architect Percy Emerson Culverhouse, the centrepiece of this was a new Art Deco entrance building faced in Portland stone, containing a booking hall and concourse with noted Art Deco light fittings, all topped by a clock cupola.[8] The current Art Deco lamps in the booking hall are replicas of the originals, installed in 1999, having been funded by the Railway Heritage Trust. A GWR war memorial is located at the eastern end of the concourse.[9] The Great Western Railway has its full name carved onto the façade (larger than the name of the station). The rebuild also saw a number of other improvements including the lengthening of the platforms, the widening of the Taff River railway bridge to allow the approach lines to the station to be quadrupled, and the installation of colour-light signalling. The rebuild of the station cost the GWR £820,000 (equivalent to £57,180,000 in 2018),[10], and was formally opened by the then Minister of Transport Oliver Stanley on 26 February 1934.[5]

In July 1934, the GWR began a pioneering diesel railcar service with a buffet between Cardiff General and Birmingham Snow Hill which had only two stops at Newport and Gloucester. This was the first long distance diesel express service in Britain, covering the 117.5 miles (189.1 km) between Cardiff and Birmingham in 2 hours 20 minutes. It proved so successful that larger railcars with more seating and no buffet had to be introduced to cope with demand, and even this had to be augmented by a normal locomotive hauled service. During the Second World War, two such trains ran to and from Cardiff daily. At this time it consisted of a three car train consisting of a standard carriage sandwiched between two railcars, and a stop at Stratford-upon-Avon was introduced.[11][12][13][14]

As a result of representations by the GWR, a nearby working-class district, Temperance Town, was cleared during the late 1930s in order to improve the outlook of the rebuilt station.[15]

In 1992, the station, its entrances and platforms, became Grade II listed.[16]

Cardiff Riverside Junction railway station[edit]

Cardiff Riverside railway station in 1993, shortly before demolition.

On 14 August 1893 the GWR opened the adjacent Cardiff Riverside Junction station which had two platforms located to the south of and adjacent to the main Cardiff station which curved away to the south on the Cardiff Riverside Branch, which ran to its terminus at Clarence Road about one mile to the south. Riverside station was rebuilt as an island platform with two platform faces in the early 1930s at the same time as Cardiff General was being rebuilt. On 28 October 1940 Riverside station was formally incorporated into Cardiff General station with its platforms being designated 8 and 9. The Riverside platforms were closed for passenger use on 16 March 1964, but they continued to be used for parcels and newspaper traffic for a number of years after.[5] They were demolished in 1994 after becoming disused.[17][9]

21st century redevelopment[edit]

In 2011 it was announced that Cardiff Central would be enhanced with a new platform ('Platform 8') and a new two-storey southern entrance and booking hall. This was part of a £200m regeneration scheme to boost train capacity in Cardiff and the surrounding areas. Work started from June 2014. The Assembly Government committed £7m for the overall enhancements programme[18]

The new southern entrance and booking hall, opened in 2015

The new entrance on the south side of the station, was opened in September 2015,[19] and the new platform 8 on the south side of the station, opened in January 2017, allowing the number of trains on the busy Cardiff Central to Cardiff Queen Street corridor to be increased from 12 to 16 per hour. This was opened in conjunction with a resignalling scheme in the station, which saw all of the station's platforms signalled to become bi-directional, in order to increase the flexibility of the operations.[20][21]

As part of the redevelopment scheme work began in 2015 on a new public square called Central Square in front of the main station entrance, which will include new office, residential and retail space.[22]

The old Grade II listed Water Tower (next to Platform 0 and the River Taff) was repainted in 2012 in the original brown and beige colours of the Great Western Railway.[23]

Current developments and future plans[edit]

Starting in 2010, a scheme has been underway to electrify the Great Western Main Line and the South Wales Main Line. This will allow the current ageing diesel InterCity 125 rolling stock to be replaced by Hitachi Super Express trains on the London-Cardiff service. Initially the electrification was intended to stretch all the way from Cardiff to Swansea, but the Swansea extension was cancelled in 2017, instead bi-mode trains will be used on the services which continue to Swansea.[24] Electrification to Cardiff was expected to be completed by 2018, but instead, Network Rail delayed it, with the latest estimates being that it will be completed by late 2019.[25]

In 2015, plans were unveiled to substantially redevelop the station in order to cope with the expected rise in passenger numbers, which are projected to rise from the current 13 million to 32 million by 2043. The proposed redevelopment would see an enlarged glass fronted concourse which would leave the current 1930s façade intact.[26]

Station layout and platforms[edit]

Layout plan of Cardiff Central

There are two entrances to the station. The northern main entrance leads to the main concourse and is on Central Square. Three main city centre landmarks are visible from here: the Millennium Stadium, Stadium House and Southgate House.[27]

The southern entrance is at the rear of the station on Tresillian Way, accessed from Penarth Road, where the station car park is found.

The railway lines are above the station concourses. Two subways, one each at the eastern and western side of the station, run parallel under the tracks linking the two main entrances, from which the platforms are accessed by stairs and lifts, with the exception of Platform 0 which is accessed from the main concourse near Marks and Spencer.

1930s signage to platforms, indicating the now non-existent platform 5

Cardiff Central has eight platforms, numbered 0, 1, 2, 3a/b, 4a/b, 6, 7 and 8. There is no longer, despite signage, a Platform 5; this was a west-facing bay platform situated between Platforms 3 and 4 which was removed in the 1960s.[29][30] Platform 0, a short through platform at the north of the station was created in 1999.[9][21]

Platforms 3 and 4 are divided into 'A' and 'B' sections and are capable of holding two local trains or a nine car Class 800 train. Other platforms can be used by more than one train, but are not sectioned.

Platforms 6 to 8 at the south side of the station are used by Valley Lines trains between Cardiff Queen Street, the north of Cardiff, the Valleys, and the Vale of Glamorgan.

Platforms 0 to 4 are typically used by longer distance regional and national services operated by Transport for Wales, Great Western Railway, and CrossCountry to destinations including Birmingham New Street, Bristol Temple Meads, Carmarthen, Derby, Gloucester, London Paddington, Manchester Piccadilly, Milford Haven, Portsmouth Harbour, Swansea and North Wales.


The majority of facilities are in the main concourse, including ticket desks and machines, cash machines, an information desk, departure and arrival screens, public telephones, a newsagent, and food shops. The station has the only First Class waiting room in Wales.[31][32] Outside, an pay-and-display car park provides 248 spaces.[33]

British Transport Police maintains a presence at Cardiff Central.[34]


Map of the south-east Wales rail network

Three train operators run services to Cardiff Central, a summary is as follows:


Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
Cardiff Queen Street   Transport for Wales
City Line
  Ninian Park
Cardiff Queen Street   Transport for Wales
Rhondda Line
Cardiff Queen Street   Transport for Wales
Rhymney Line
  Transport for Wales
Vale Line
Pye Corner   Transport for Wales
Cardiff Central – Ebbw Vale Town
Newport   Transport for Wales
Maesteg / Cardiff Central – Cheltenham Spa
Newport   Transport for Wales
Cardiff – Holyhead via Wrexham
Newport   Transport for Wales
Cardiff Central – Manchester Piccadilly
  Transport for Wales
South Wales Main Line
Terminus   Transport for Wales
Newport   Transport for Wales
North-South "Premier" service
Newport   CrossCountry
Cardiff Central – Manchester
Cardiff Central – Nottingham
Newport   Great Western Railway
London Paddington – Cardiff Central
  Great Western Railway
London Paddington – Swansea
Newport   Great Western Railway
Cardiff Central – Portsmouth Harbour
  Great Western Railway
Cardiff Central – Taunton


On 4 May 1998, eleven wagons of freight train which was carrying iron ore from Port Talbot derailed just east of the station, causing substantial damage to the track, as well as blocking the main line into the station. This caused enormous disruption to the services which lasted for several days. No-one however was injured in the incident.[35][36]

To the east of the platforms, the Valley Lines tracks rise up and cross over the South Wales Main Line using a bridge. Rail services were severely disrupted in August 2012 when the retaining wall between the tracks partially collapsed, spilling five tonnes of earth. The South Wales Main Line was swiftly reopened, but all services between Cardiff Central and Cardiff Queen Street were cancelled, with a replacement bus service operating. It was expected that repairs could take two weeks.[37][38] There were worries that the bronze medal match in the 2012 Summer Olympics men's football competition, held at the nearby Cardiff Millennium Stadium could be disrupted, but most fans were due to arrive by the main line rather than the Valley Lines.[39] There had been severe congestion at the station earlier in the month due to another Olympic match.[40]

In December 2016, a serious accident was narrowly averted by the alertness of a driver. During the Cardiff Area Resignalling Scheme, a set of points had been left in an unsafe condition, and undetectable by the signalling system. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch report into the incident revealed that lessons learnt following the Clapham Junction rail crash in December 1988 appeared to have been forgotten. Excessive working hours and a lack of detailed planning were cited as contributory factors.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cardiff Arms Park, A short History – The Creation of the Arms Park". Cardiff Council. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2008.
  2. ^ MacDermot, E.T. (1927). History of the Great Western Railway, volume I 1833–1863. London: Great Western Railway.
  3. ^ a b Walters 1995, pp. 9–10.
  4. ^ Walters 1995, pp. 18–20.
  5. ^ a b c Walters 1995, pp. 63–71.
  6. ^ Butt, R.J.V. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Patrick Stephens Ltd. p. 53.
  7. ^ "Cardiff Timeline". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007.
  8. ^ "Cardiff General Railway Station, Cardiff". Coflein. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  9. ^ a b c "Cardiff Central rail station". History Points. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  10. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Great Western railcars". The Great Western Archive. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  12. ^ "Stratford on Avon Station: An unidentified Great Western Railway Diesel Railcar is seen passing Stratford on Avon West Signal Box on the up 9:10am Cardiff to Snow Hill service".
  13. ^ "Stratford on Avon Station: GWR Diesel Railcars W37 W and W38 W are seen with a Third class coach in between departing on the up 5:05pm Cardiff to Birmingham service".
  14. ^ Boynton, John (1994). Shakespeare's Railways. Mid England Books. ISBN 0-9522248-1-X.
  15. ^ Fisk, Stephen (June 2009). "Abandoned Communities – Temperance Town". Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  16. ^ "Cardiff Central Station, Booking Hall, Passenger Subway, Platforms 1–4, 6 & 7 and Platform Buildings". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  17. ^ Walters 1995, p. 82.
  18. ^ Law, Peter (9 February 2011). "Cardiff rail stations set for revamp". South Wales Echo.
  19. ^ "Wales Office Minister visits new entrance which gives passengers more room at Cardiff Central station". Network Rail Media Centre. 22 September 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  20. ^ "UK: Cardiff Central station expanded with new platform". Railway Pro. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  21. ^ a b "Cardiff resignalled". RailEngineer. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  22. ^ "Cardiff's new Central Square development: An Exclusive glimpse at the dramatic overhaul planned for the heart of the capital". Wales Online. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  23. ^ "Cardiff Central's landmark water tower renovation starts – without a daffodil in sight". Wales Online. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  24. ^ "Sheffield, Swansea and Windermere electrification cancelled". Railway Gazette. 20 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  25. ^ "Rail electrification to south Wales delayed". Wales Online. 6 July 2018. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  26. ^ "New plans to transform Cardiff Central Railway Station revealed". Wales Online. 28 July 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  27. ^ "Cardiff Central Station view". Google Maps.
  28. ^ "Route Plans 2008 – Route 15, South Wales Valleys" (PDF). Network Rail. p. 10.
  29. ^ Potential reinstatement of this platform is mentioned on page 10 of Network Rail's route plan for the Valley Lines[28]
  30. ^ Walters 1995, p. 80.
  31. ^ "First Class". First Great Western.
  32. ^ "First Class Lounges at Major Train Stations". Virgin Trains.
  33. ^ "Cardiff Central (CDF)". National Rail.
  34. ^ "British Transport Police, Wales & Western Area". Archived from the original on 25 December 2013.
  35. ^ "Train accident causes travel chaos". BBC News. 4 May 1998. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  36. ^ "Derailment of Iron Ore train at Cardiff May 1998 with 56083". YouTube. Mike Wilcock. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  37. ^ "Cardiff rail disruption 'to continue' after wall breaks". BBC News. BBC. 11 August 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  38. ^ "Cardiff rail services disruption after wall collapse". BBC News. BBC. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  39. ^ "Cardiff wall collapse causes rail delays". BBC News. BBC. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  40. ^ "Olympic football: Team GB Cardiff quarter-final attracts thousands". BBC News. BBC. 5 August 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  41. ^ "Serious irregularity at Cardiff East Junction 29 December 2016" (PDF). Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 30 October 2017.


  • Walters, Laurence (1995). Railways of Cardiff. Addlestone: Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0-7110-2380-8.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Cardiff Central railway station at Wikimedia Commons