The most frustrating things about living in Swansea
Swansea has made a lot of right decisions over the years, but a lot of wrong ones too
- 12:09, 4 AUG 2018
Filling the main bit of the city centre with endless car parks
Take a bird’s eye view of Swansea from the top of the Meridian Tower and marvel at they city centre’s vast fields of concrete.
Swansea’s city centre – or what should be the city centre – is one giant car park.
Council car parks either side of Oystermouth Road, serving LC visitors and shoppers are joined by a Tesco Extra car park and yet another multi-storey car park behind that.
The Tesco itself is more suitable for an out-of-town retail park not a city centre.
In fairness Swansea is about to be transformed with the creation of the St David’s development which will see one car park transformed into an indoor arena and better links created between the high street and the seafront.
- Landmark St David’s development in Swansea takes major step forward
But the cost will run into millions upon millions when it could have been sorted in the first place.
And a Tesco car park will still have pride of place.
And there will still be a dual carriageway separating the city centre from the waterfront.
A lot of the city is built on a massive hill
We shouldn’t complain.
Some of the views of Swansea Bay from Townhill or Kilvey Hill are spectacular.
And there’s not much that can be done about it.
But a lot the city’s residential hamlets are annoyingly built on higher ground, and walking into town is fine but walking home is hard work.
Trudging up Mount Pleasant on a windy, rainy day can feel like climbing your own personal Everest.
Deliveroo riders in Swansea often have a grimace more commonly found on a Tour de France cyclist.
It’s just another of life’s inconvenicnes.
Getting rid of the Mumbles tram
Sitting in your car on Oystermouth Road in standstill traffic, in the heatwave, trying to get to Mumbles for an Ice Cream – it is not fun.
Wouldn’t it be amazing then if there was tram system which connected Swansea city centre with the picturesque village, Langland Bay and Caswell.
Well there was but THEY GOT RID OF IT!
The Mumbles train became the first railway in the world to regularly carry passengers in 1807
The original line ran from Swansea to Oystermouth. In the 1890s it was extended to the newly built Mumbles Pier.
There were branches in Swansea – up the Strand and out to the West Pier – and near Blackpill up the Clyne Valley.
The trams moved from horse power to steam locomotion, and finally electric trams before.
But in 1960 the railway was dumped in favour for buses.
- How Mumbles went from just a mile of pubs to the best place to live in Wales
The lack of a coherent plan for the long-term of SA1
Plans to transform Swansea’s docklands first emerged in 2004. The masterplan was not short of ambition.
It said: “Set around a new marina in the imposing Prince of Wales Dock, the area is set to become Wales’ premier waterfront development, acting as a magnet to new investment and jobs for Swansea and a catalyst for the regeneration of the city’s docklands.
“We will set ambitious new standards for innovation and design and create a quality of waterfront environment that will make it a truly international destination.”
Office space was to be concentrated along the border with Fabian Way.
Residential plots were allocated all around Prince of Wales Dock, and boulevards, parks and public squares “enriched with public art” would be created.
The masterplan also earmarked a leisure quarter near Trafalgar Bridge, at the mouth of the Tawe, with the potential for a multiplex cinema along with multi-storey car parking.
The marina, leisure quarter and multi-storey parking have not materialised, although the leisure area will be home to the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s new £300 million SA1 Waterfront campus.
Today SA1 is suffering from an identity crisis. The leisure quarter never happened, nor did the parks.
Instead there are lots and lots of flats and office space, but it feels like the gaze of the city is starting to move away from it. It could have been so much more.
Read more about the struggle to redevelop Swansea’s docklands
You can read more about SA1’s success and failure in this in-depth piece of work conducted into it’s legacy so far.
It details exactly how the planning process evolved and the intriguing political reasons why some promises were not deliverd.
Redeveloping a city’s waterfront is no mean feat though.
As this piece detailing the the biggest regeneration in Welsh history shows .
Cardiff Bay is often seen as what SA1 could have been – but also isn’t perfect.
Constant road improvements that don’t improve the roads
Some say Swansea’ roads are so abstract lines they could have been designed by Picasso himself.
And the glow generated from the city’s hundreds of traffic lights can (probably) be seen from space.
In recent years there have been numerous attempts to solve some of the city’s traffic problems, at huge expense and with debatable success.
Road problems in Swansea and the attempts to solve them
The bendy bus debacle
Almost a decade ago £10m was spent ripping up the entire city centre to accommodate bendy buses.
Six years later bendy buses were scrapped.
Infamous Swansea ‘bendy buses’ scrapped six years after council spent £10m ripping up city centre roads to accommodate them
Ynysforgan roundabout was one of the most intimidating in Wales due to its size and complicated layout.
So huge improvement work was carried out – which made the problem worse.
Changes to one of Wales’ most complicated roundabouts have left people confused
Diggers and contractors are currently transforming The Kingsway.
The £12 million project will create a new layout and extend to some surrounding roads.
This is some 10 years after the controversial decision was made to create a one-way street for cars with a separate two-way bus lane.
The deaths of two people since then forced a rethink but the street’s issues have never been solved.
How to solve the problem of Swansea’s Kingsway
The road bridge system
In 2011 changes were made to the traffic flow over the River Tawe bridge crossings.
The works formed part of plans to create a boulevard between the river bridges and the LC, improving the gateway in and out of the city centre.
Swansea council has created a clockwise movement of traffic driving in and out of the city in a bid to cut congestion and reduce queues.
What it actually did was create confusion for any visitors to the city who end up getting stuck in the wrong lane and in a constant loop.
And then there’s…
Take away all of the above and it’s generally fine.
Except if there’s a crash or breakdown in Fabian Way or Oystermouth road which brings the entire city to a halt.
Or if you try and get down High Street in rush hour or a weekend.
Being stuck at the end of the M4
There’s not much you can do about geography but living at the end of the M4 seems to see Swansea constantly overlooked – especially when the city at the opposite end is the one where everything happens.
The motorway is a gateway for business and unfortunately it passes lots of other big cities before reaching Swansea.
As a result it can’t be a coincidence that lots of businesses decide to set up shop in Cardiff or Bristol – never getting as far of Swansea.
But it’s not just bad for business – it seems like Westminster seems to overlook Swansea too.
Rail electrification was taken away from the city, as was the tidal lagoon, until the council decided to try and build it themselves.
- Plans for Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon are resurrected
The bus station is the other side of the city centre to the train station
The layout of the rail network alone is annoying enough.
The fact inbound and outbound traffic both arrive and depart in the same direction means trains have to labour in and out of the city.
Whereas a through line might open up the possibility for more stops.
Then you have the location.
High Street is not the gateway the city deserves. It’s getting better but you still can’t walk down it without meeting some well oiled local characters.
Which is crux of the next problem.
While most cities have an interconnecting public transport hub (buses, trains and taxis all in one place), Swansea doesn’t.
There’s a single bus stop outside the station but the main station is a good 20 minute walk away.
For some older people who rely on public transport that isn’t just a minor inconvenience, it’s a genuine issue.
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- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
Swansea, Welsh Abertawe, city, Swansea county, historic county of Glamorgan (Morgannwg), southwestern Wales . It lies along the Bristol Channel at the mouth of the River Tawe. Swansea is the second largest city in Wales (after Cardiff ).
In the early 12th century the Norman Henry de Newburgh built a castle there, which was later destroyed by the Welsh rebel Owain Glyn Dŵr . Up to the early 18th century Swansea was a small market town and a coal port. Thereafter it grew steadily as an industrial centre. Local outcrops of coal were used in the smelting of imported copper after 1717, and the industry prospered so much that by the mid-19th century Swansea’s Metal Exchange was the centre of world trade in copper. The copper industry’s subsequent collapse resulted mainly from foreign competition. Swansea also prospered as a port for the anthracite mines of the western coalfield in South Wales. A canal built along the Swansea valley in 1798 and railways constructed during the 19th century linked Swansea’s port with the coalfield, and new docks built after 1852 increased the port’s capacity. Swansea’s coal exports reached a peak about 1913 but virtually ceased by the 1980s. Production of other nonferrous metals developed in and around Swansea, including lead, zinc , nickel, and especially tinplate production, but these sectors declined dramatically during the 20th century.
Aluminum production and metal fabrication developed after World War II . Other late 20th-century additions to the city’s industrial structure include the manufacture of automotive components, engineering products, plastics, and packaging. An oil refinery at Llandarcy on the eastern edge of Swansea processes oil that arrives through a pipeline from Milford Haven , and it supplies a petrochemical plant at Baglan, near Neath . Swansea is now the chief shopping and service centre for southwestern Wales. It has a university college with a special reputation in engineering and metallurgy. The Royal Institution of South Wales (1835) has a museum displaying the archaeology and natural history of the area. The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery was opened in 1911, and in 1934 a new guildhall was erected, notable for 16 panels painted by Frank Brangwyn and originally intended to decorate the British House of Lords .
The town centre was almost totally destroyed by German bombing in 1941 during World War II but has been redeveloped, as have former industrial districts along the River Tawe. The old parish church of St. Mary was rebuilt in 1959 after being destroyed in the war. Swansea has a tourist trade based upon the extensive beaches of Swansea Bay and the attractive Gower (peninsula) coast to the west. Swansea is served by the daily South Wales Evening Post and the monthly magazine Swansea Life, as well as by several local radio stations and by regional and national stations. The poet Dylan Thomas was born there and celebrated the region in his work. Pop. (2001) city, 169,880; urban agglom., 380,950; (2011) city, 179,485; urban agglom., 405,947.
Learn More in these related Britannica articles:
- SwanseaThe city of Swansea is the second largest in Wales and accounts for most of the county’s population. It is an important port and industrial centre and also the main commercial and service centre of southwestern Wales. The main industries are metal fabrication, automotive components, engineering, plastics, packaging,…
Glamorgan, historic county, southern Wales, extending inland from the Bristol Channel coast between the Rivers Loughor and Rhymney. In the north it comprises a barren upland moor dissected by narrow river valleys. Glamorgan’s southern coastal section centres on an undulating plain known as the Vale of Glamorgan and…
Wales, constituent unit of the United Kingdom that forms a westward extension of the island of Great Britain. The capital and main commercial and financial centre is Cardiff. Famed for its strikingly rugged landscape, the small nation of Wales—which comprises six…
- Bristol Channel
Bristol Channel, inlet of the Atlantic Ocean separating southwestern England from southern Wales. The northern shore borders the South Wales coalfield and is heavily industrialized; the southern shore in the counties of Somerset and Devon is mainly agricultural. At the eastern end of the channel is the estuary of the…
Cardiff, city and capital of Wales. Cardiff exists as both a city and a county within the Welsh unitary authority system of local government. It is located within the historic county of Glamorgan (Morgannwg) on the Bristol Channel at the mouth of the River Taff, about 150 miles…
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