similar scheme already operates in Bristol, with the city council providing a subsidy of £45,000 a year for the service in the city's harbour. Cardiff Council is now planning to follow this lead if a marketing exercise finds sufficient demand from workers for the peak-hour service. In this case, it will invite tenders to operate services between Penarth, Cardiff Bay and the city centre. The idea was originally put forward in a major report by the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA). This suggested the introduction of two routes from the Penarth end of the Cardiff Bay barrage — one travelling to Mermaid Quay in Cardiff Bay and the second from the barrage into the heart of the city centre through to Cardiff Castle.
It is anticipated that each route could be run on a 20 or 30-minute timetable. In order to achieve the required level of fares, it is estimated that the two routes could need minimum subsidies of £61,000 a year each. It is acknowledged that a commuter service must be competitive with bus and rail travel if it is to attract sufficient custom. The AINA report said: “Any operation will require significant financial subsidies for it to be viable in the early years. Commercial success will be dependent on demonstrating to the customer that an efficient, reliable and integrated service will be in operation. The service between Penarth and the castle will require travel along the River Taff at relatively high speed and this will necessitate restrictions on other uses; for example, rowers.”
Following the publication of the report, some progress has already been made. Eight landing stations have been developed at a cost of £837,000 and more could be built to provide further links. Tom Morgan, Cardiff Council's corporate director, stated that the council’s preferred option is to use a private operator with a subsidy provided. “To maintain a frequency that would attract commuters, the speed of water buses travelling on the river needs to be increased up to 20 knots,” he explained.