Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Great Railway Journeys of the World: Cardiff Queen Street to Cardiff Bay

Having tired of the shopping opportunities offered by the City Of Arcades, some travel is in order and where better to start than the conveniently-located Queen Street station – the gateway to the Valleys and also to the recently-modernised Cardiff Bay area. Having fed a pound coin into the ticket vending machine, we pass the barrier and make our way to platform three where the 11.29 is waiting to depart.

The first half of the journey describes a wide clockwise arc around some of the city centre's western landmarks: The whitewashed and angular Ibis Hotel, the red brick and metal of the Cardiff Indoor Arena, the dark blue reflective box-on-legs that is the Big Sleep Hotel (itself the former Gas Board headquarters). Here the train diverges from the path which would take us onto the main line and into Central Station, instead heading southwards over them on a curved flyover. A glance to the right offers a view of the Brains Brewery and some of the City's newer commercial buildings. Shortly we reach the bridge over Herbert Street and looking ahead and to the left we catch our first distant glimpse of the enormous copper dome of The Welsh National Opera House.

From here the track straightens, the four-wheeled carriage thudding into each joint in the rails as we hold a steady pace, albeit one noticeably slower than the cars running down the adjacent boulevard. Never mind, it means we can enjoy the sight of the nautical ornaments placed beside the tracks and the explosion of new apartment buildings to our left as well as the small terraced houses and large towers to the right, many of them in a state of some dereliction but hidden from the shame of their newer cousins by the very embankment we are running along.

Soon one's view to the of the left is obscured by a tall, bluish-green panelled fence, for it is here that the the long platform of Cardiff Bay station begins. Clearly designed for the future, it is several train-lengths before we come to a gentle halt at the buffer stops and disembark, some three minutes after we departed. From here it is a short walk to Roald Dahl Place and onward to the Bay area's many fine views and leisure attractions.

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