Cathays train station bridge and Matthew Curtis. Image (Left): Lowri Lewis. Image (Right): Matthew Curtis.
Cathays train station bridge and Matthew Curtis. Image (Left): Lowri Lewis. Image (Right): Matthew Curtis.

Concussion, a broken collarbone and a codeine prescription: The perils of Cathays train station footbridge

‘I couldn’t walk or sit upright. Those stairs really are lethal,’ said one student

CARDIFF University students have broken bones, got concussion and missed classes because of the steep footbridge over Cathays train station. 

The steep steps are particularly difficult for disabled people to navigate.

“It is literally a rite of passage to fall down those stairs at least once during your time at university,” said ex-student Ellie.

Cathays train station is the sixth most-used in Wales. It was used 698,912 times in 2022-23 according to newly released data, making it busier than Cardiff Bay, Bangor and Caerphilly.

A new footbridge that would not be so steep was due to be completed by the end of March 2024, but a TfW spokesperson said that it will only get to the detailed design stage of the work later this year. 

Students are being injured 

Cardiff University student Megan Bowen. Image: Megan Bowen

Megan Bowen, a final year Cardiff University student, slipped on the steps and got a concussion two years ago. 

“I was just walking home and was going down the steps when I slipped and fell face first and hit my head and my mouth,” she said. “They’re horrific and really need a change.”

It had been raining, which made the steps extra slippery. She also had two black eyes after the incident. 

Matthew Curtis, 19, was found by strangers at the bottom of the staircase when he broke his collarbone in February last year.

“I fell down from at least three-quarters of the way up,” he said. The good Samaritans at the bottom of the staircase called one of his friends, who went to A&E with him. He’s suffered no lasting effects.

Law student Freya Llewellyn said she was prescribed codeine and missed weeks of classes after falling down the stairs in February 2022. 

She said: “I couldn’t walk or sit upright. Those stairs really are lethal.”

Cardiff University student Matthew Curtis in a sling after breaking his collarbone. Image: Matthew Curtis

Ex-student Ellie, who didn’t want to give her surname, said: “I distinctly remember seeing my friend fall from top to bottom in summer 2011, she must have done about three full roly-polys to the bottom. She broke her nose unfortunately, but she’s fine now.”

Disabled students are unable to use the footbridge

Lucy Roberts, 20, who is dyspraxic, said she often misses her train to Bridgend which comes once an hour because she finds it hard to use the footbridge. 

“Those steps are so narrow that every time I go up them I trip over at least one of them,” she said. 

Cardiff University student Lucy Roberts. Image: Lowri Lewis

Ms Roberts is an occupational therapy student at Cardiff University and has dyspraxia, a disability which affects balance and coordination. 

She said: “I can still do the stairs if I want to, it’s just painful. But for wheelchair users, it’s going to be 10 times harder. It’s like a whole facility has been cut off for them.”

She uses the lifts in the Centre for Student Life building to get from one side of the platform to the other, but said that these have been broken recently. 

Ms Roberts has had to use the stairs in the building, which she says is a nightmare and the extra time this takes has resulted in her missing trains.

A Students’ Union spokesperson said that campus accessibility is of paramount importance to them, and that the main lift is now fully operational thanks to significant investment over recent months. 

“The community doesn’t know when it’s going to happen and that’s disappointing”

It’s not just students who have concerns about the footbridge. Ceri Davies, 48, worked in the rail unit of the Welsh government when it was first devolved. 

“The money’s there to replace it, it needs replacing. The community doesn’t know when it’s going to happen and that’s disappointing,” he said. 

The Department for Transport announced funding to improve the station’s accessibility under the Access for All programme in 2019. 

Mr Davies lives in Cathays and knows people who have fallen and injured themselves on the steps. He doesn’t think that it meets all the requirements of a modern bridge. 

A spokesperson for Transport for Wales said: “As part of the once-in-generation South Wales Metro project we will be improving accessibility at stations across the core Valley Lines. This includes a proposed fully accessible footbridge at Cathays railway station.”

“We are currently working with key stakeholders including the Welsh Government and Cardiff University to develop the project proposals and will be able to share further information as it progresses.”

A model of the potential design for the new bridge. Image: Cardiff Council

“Transport for Wales is committed to improving accessibility at stations throughout the Wales and Borders network and our work is guided by our dedicated experts who advise us how to support disabled, deaf and older customers to use our services effectively.”

A spokesperson for the Students’ Union said: “We understand the significance of accessible facilities in providing an inclusive and supportive environment for all students.”

“To enhance communication about lift status changes, we have a live tracker on our website, allowing students to stay informed if their access routes are impacted.”

“In addition to this, we are actively planning the construction of a second passenger lift in the Students’ Union building. This initiative is part of our ongoing efforts to improve accessibility and ensure that all students can navigate our facilities comfortably.”

“Improving the accessibility of Cathays train station has been a longstanding ambition and campaign of CSU. We are pleased to hear that after many years highlighting the concerns of students and the general public, that improvements are scheduled to commence later in the year to enhance accessibility.”