What happened to ULTra?

In 2001 Cardiff County Council announced their plans to develop alternative methods of transportation. Where other cities had built tram and metro networks, Cardiffs answer was ‘ULTra’, Urban Light Transportation. A press release went out almost 5 years ago, in June 2001 announcing that work had begun on building the test track and that “the trials would last for about a year before the first routes would be started in Cardiff Bay.”


In fact, in the April 2002 Comittee of the Council, the minutes include the following exchange of words between then council leader Russell Goodway and present council leader Rodney Berman;

“Do you not agree that it is now time for this Council to drop its pursuance of such a highly experimental transport system as the ULTra, which is unlikely to significantly address the real and pressing transport needs of this City, and instead pursue the option of a more tried and tested, and potentially cheaper, mass-transit system?”

“I’ll make this prediction:
ULTra will succeed.
Not only that – it will mark Cardiff out among European Capitals.
And then – and only then the Leader of the Opposition and his party will say it’s a brilliant idea.
But will they give credit to the Council?
Of course, they won’t.”

Of course, as usual Russell Goodway used the topic to make a political thrash at the opposition leader whilst Berman stayed professional, but, that is neither here nor there.
We all know Goodway is an incomptent oaf anyway, this has just re-affirmed that.

During 2002 there was much talk about it, it was brought up numerous times in council meetings and was highly publicised in both council and publically controlled media with articles being run in all news sources relevant to South Wales.

The Capital Times, the free newspaper produced by Cardiff council speculated in 2002 that the first phases of the operation could go live as early as 2003 and BBC News reported that “If the tests are judged to be a success, funding would be sought for a £45m project linking the city centre, the civic centre at Cathays Park and Cardiff Bay starting in 2004.”

However, four years later, the plan is barely closer to realisation than it was then.
A test track was built at a cost of £3m and showcases were held for councillors and Welsh Assembly government officials at said test track, but since then, we have heard nothing.

Focus appears to have shifted to BAA and Heathrow airport who have expressed an interest in running the ULTra service too.
The ULTra website is currently awash with press releases regarding their involvement with Heathrow airport, but the last mention of Cardiff was in 2003 which was when they announced that the passenger trials were completed.

Being the inquisitive sort, I have decided to start my own investigation, to find out just how the ULTra project is doing and how long it’s going to be before the travelling public will be able to get a ride in one of these futuristic pods, if ever.

To do this, I plan to do the following things:

  • Get a comment from Advanced Transport Systems Ltd, the company behind ULTra regarding the progress in Cardiff.
  • Get a comment from the Welsh Assembly government to find out what they know of the progress of the project.
  • Get a comment from Cardiff County council regarding the progress of the project.

I have already done the following things:

  • Written to Council leader Rodney Berman
  • Written to my local councillor, Gavin Cox

Hopefully we can get a result on this as it seems a lot of money for the Welsh Assembly government to be simply wasting, or just handing to a private company to build a test track that they will be using to make profit selling their idea to other interested parties, parties like Heathrow Airport that obviously aren’t even in Wales.

Watch this space.


  1. I have also been wondering what happened to this, I thought it sounded pretty cool, but it seems to have been forgotten about, and not just by me!

    I’ll be reading your follow-ups with interest…

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