Cardiff Bus, Wales, UK

Cardiff Bus, Wales, UK

Cardiff Bus (Welsh: Bws Caerdydd) is the dominant bus operator in Cardiff, Wales and the surrounding area, including Barry and Penarth. Its hub is Cardiff central bus station. The company is wholly owned by Cardiff County Council and is one of the few municipal bus companies to survive the effects of UK bus deregulation in the late 1980s and it was founded in 1902.


While horse buses (and later horse trams) had run in the city since 1845, Cardiff Bus can trace its history back to 1902, when the borough council took over and electrified a tram line between Roath and the city centre. It had been previously run by the Cardiff Tramway Company. The resultant Cardiff Corporation Tramways spent the next 3 decades extending its electric tram network, and at its peak in 1927 ran 141 electric trams over 18 miles of line.

On Christmas Eve 1920, the corporation introduced its first motor buses, although the first motor bus route was operated by the Tramway Company from 1907.

The first trolleybuses were introduced in 1942, their introduction having been delayed by the outbreak of World War II. The intention was to convert the remaining tramway system to trolleybus operation, then to extend the network. While the first stage was completed in 1950, the only extension made to the system was to Ely which took place in 1955. Although powers had been obtained to considerably expand the network, a policy U-turn occurred in 1961 when the decision was made to replace all the trolleybuses with motor buses. This task was completed in 1970, bringing to an end 68 years of electric traction on the streets of Cardiff.

The Transport Act of 1985 deregulated bus services outside London and required all Local Authorities to establish private “arm’s length” bus companies. In October 1986 the council established its own wholly owned company – ”Cardiff City Transport Services Limited”, trading as ”Cardiff Bus”. In 1992, the closure of the National Welsh bus company led Cardiff Bus to extend and intensify its network in the areas and towns surrounding Cardiff, including Barry, the Vale of Glamorgan and Caerphilly. The Caerphilly local network of services including links between Cardiff, Caerphilly, Blackwood and Tredegar were discontinued in 2001 and are now provided by Stagecoach in South Wales and IBT.
Some loss-making services have been withdrawn and are operated under local authority tender by other companies, including Bebb Travel and the former Shamrock group, now owned by Bebb’s proprietor Veolia. Several operate entirely within the City of Cardiff, while some in the Vale of Glamorgan are operated by ESTbus.

In September 2007, Council chief executive Byron Davies unveiled plans aimed at massive efficiency improvements and bringing in additional funding, which would include selling County Hall, the Cardiff Heliport and up to 40% of Cardiff Bus.

OperationsCardiff Bus has a turnover of £27million, employs around 720 people, on an average weekday carries around 100,000 passengers. The fleet and drivers are managed against a timetable using software systems supplied by UK based software supplier Omnibus Systems, which allows the real-time digital information displays positioned at many stops around the city, to inform people when the next bus is due and alerting waiting passengers of any delays. Raised kerbs have been installed at the majority of stops.


Cardiff Bus operate an exact fare policy, where no change is given. The reasoning behind the policy is that if the driver does not have to deal with giving change, passenger loading times are shortened, resulting in a faster and more reliable service; but has generated some criticism as its implementation can result in passengers paying more than the necessary fare. Cardiff is divided into into red, yellow, green and blue zones from the city centre outwards for the purpose of fare calculation.

Furthermore, the Vale of Glamorgan is divided into zones like Cardiff. From Cardiff outwards, the zones are Vale (Penarth, Wenvoe and Dinas Powys) and Barry (Town centre, Island). Llantwit Major and Rhoose fares are similar to those of for the airport.


The current fleet is composed of 219 buses, the entire operational is comprised of low-floor buses.

In May 2006, Cardiff Bus invested 4.5m in 19 new Scania OmniCity articulated bendy buses to provide much needed extra capacity on the busiest routes, and at 235,000 each show the high specification. Thirteen operate exclusively on the 17/18 Ely route, branded Capital City Red, and four buses operate on the Bay and City Centre link service known as baycar.

On 8 October 2007, Cardiff Bus received 15 Scania OmniCitys and 13 Scania N230UD/East Lancs Olympus in late November, with the final delivered in early 2008. These replaced the Leyland Lynxs, the Optare MetroRiders, Volvo Ailsa B55 and the N-registration Dennis Darts. Six Scania Omnicity buses will operate exclusively on the 27 route, branded Capital City Green, from the city centre to Llanishen and Thornhill, with the remainder principally operating on services 28, 29, 29B, 30 as well as the christmas park & ride services. On the Capital City Green routes, there are 6 buses, all with a person from Cardiff on the back of them. Bus 721 is unknown, bus 722 is Michael Simmons, bus 723 is unknown, bus 724 is Pauline De Rochha, bus 725 is Daniel Bois and bus 726 is Stephen Bailey.

On 15 December 2007 Cardiff Bus held a final running day as a farewell gesture to the Volvo Ailsa, to commemorate 25 years of service to the city starting in March 1982. Cardiff Bus scheduled two Ailsas, 408 (NDW408X) and 436 (A436VNY) to run a number of duplicate services on a large variety of routes. All Volvos with the exception of three, have now passed onto new owners with: 407 and 436 with the Cardiff Transport Preservation group; 404 and 419 with members of the Rhymney Valley Transport Preservation Society.


Cardiff Bus’s dominant position has sometimes come in for criticism and investigation. In 2004, 2Travel, a company operating significant numbers of school contract services in South Wales, launched low-cost services in Cardiff and Swansea to utilise its stock between the school runs. In both cases, the low fares were achieved by omitting the major bus stations, thereby avoiding hefty access fees. While the services were mostly ignored by First in Swansea, Cardiff Bus launched a basic service in competition with 2Travel, using white buses bearing no livery (displaying only the operator address as required) also stopping short of the bus station. The Office of Fair Trading eventually launched an investigation in 2007 into claims of “predatory behaviour” 18 months after 2Travel had ceased the service and gone into liquidation.

Useful Links

Cardiff Bus Website

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