Welcome to the guide to using the main station in Cardiff, the only in the Welsh capital used by long-distance train services to and from the city.
Cardiff Central station was reconstructed between 1931 and 1934 and is Britain’s finest example of a station in the Art-Deco style – which is best showcased by its stunning main entrance hall on the north side of the station, which faces the city centre.
The station now also has a comparatively modern entrance/exit on its south side, facing towards Cardiff Bay.
Between these two entrances there are two subways under the platforms (tracks) which provide the access to and from most of the trains which arrive at and depart from the station.
In the primary station hall on the city centre side of the station, opposite the frontage of the station, there are two subways which lead to most of the departures from Cardiff Central.
If you use the subway to the right, you can access platforms (tracks) 1 – 8 by using the staircases which lead up from the subway to the trains.
However, if you require step-free access up to platforms 1 – 8, then use the subway to the left-hand side of the main entrance hall.
It is linked to platforms (tracks) 1 – 8 by lifts (elevators), with these lifts providing the only access between this subway and platforms 1 – 4 and 8.
So if your train will be departing from those platforms and you’re happy to use the stairs, the OTHER passage way to the right, provides the quickest access to the trains.
Using the south side entrance:
If you use the alternative entrance on the other side of Cardiff Central, closer to the waterfront, the first passage you will see ahead of you is the subway with the staircases.
If you need step-free access to the trains, you will need to go to the right, as that route leads to the lift which provides the access to the alternative subway.
Platforms 1 – 8 are housed within the main part of the station, they have long roofs which span most of their length and waiting rooms.
Platforms (tracks) 1 and 2 are usually where the Great Western Railway trains to London depart from, the First Class lounge for GWR ticket holders is on this platform.
The Cross Country services towards Nottingham via Birmingham also typically depart from here.
Platforms (tracks) 3 and 4 are usually where the trains heading west to Swansea and beyond leave from.
Platforms 6 – 8 are used by the local trains which take the Valley Lines and also connect Cardiff to Barry and Penarth.
Platform 0 is used by some of the GWR trains to Portsmouth and Taunton via Bristol, as well as some of the TFW Rail departures to Holyhead and Manchester.
It is in a separate part of the station and is a comparatively poor environment to wait for a train, as it’s only facilities are some small bus-stop style shelters.
So if your train will be leaving from platform (track) 0, don’t make your way to it until 5 mins before its departure time.
Platform 0 isn’t accessed by the subways across the station, instead it’s located at the west end of the main northern entrance hall, where the signs will lead you towards some out of sight staircases.
The lift (elevator) at that end of the main entrance hall, also gives access to platform 0.
If you enter Cardiff Central by its south entrance, you will have to use either of the subways to cross the station to the northern hall, and explain to the staff on the ticket gates, that you need to access platform 0.
Before arriving at Cardiff Central confirm whether the south side exit from the station will provide the easiest access to your final destination.
Using it could save a 5 - 8 min walk around from the main north side exit.
The platforms (tracks) at Cardiff Central are above street level, so you need to descend into the subways in order to access the exits.
If you are able to use the stairs which lead down from the trains, then take that route and ignore the lifts (elevators).
Though if you require step-free access to the exits, don’t assume that the stairs provides the only means of making your way from your train.
All of the platforms in Cardiff Central are equipped with lifts (elevators), but you may have to walk passed the staircases to reach them.
If you’ll be going to Cardiff Castle, use the Northern concourse and leave it on its right-hand side.
Once you are outside the station, look for a street over on the left named Saunders Road, at the end of this street, turn left on to St Mary Street.
This is the main route through the heart of the city and its retail area, Cardiff Castle is at the other end of St Mary Street.
The walk will take around 10 – 20 minutes.
The National Museum of Wales is at the opposite side of the city centre to Cardiff Central, it is located beyond the castle, to its east.
So to walk to the museum from Cardiff Central will take 15 – 30mins, but an easy alternative is to take one of the 6 x trains per hour from Cardiff Central to Cathays station, as that station is only a five minute walk from the museum.
Cardiff Bay station isn’t connected to Cardiff Central by direct trains, so the taking the bus is the best means of accessing Techniquest or the Millennium Centre and the other attractions in the area, from Cardiff Central by public transport.
Bus route Baycar 6 (the clue is in the name) departs from a stop by the South Side exit at Cardiff Central – the bus stop (JM) is on Penarth Road, by the office blocks on the other side of the car park, which you’ll see in front of you when exiting the station.
Train Operating Company:
(1) London Paddington via Newport, Swindon and Reading
(1) Nottingham via Newport, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Birmingham and Derby
(1) Manchester via Newport, Hereford, Shrewsbury and Crewe
Note that if you will travelling east to Newport or west to Swansea, you will have a choice of services provided by different train operating companies.
However, if you buy tickets at the station, you can take the next train to leave towards either of those destinations, you won't be restricted to travelling with a specific company.
This is one of more than 300 station guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.