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Welsh government scraps road building plans

15 Feb 23 There is little prospect of any more road-building in Wales for a while following the devolved government’s latest policy statement on the matter.

The A55 north coast route had been earmarked for investment, but not any more
The A55 north coast route had been earmarked for investment, but not any more

In essence, it seems to be saying that only roads that discourage road use will be considered for construction. Any road that encourages cars or trucks won’t be built. If it encourages people to take a bus or train instead, then it might.

In 2021, the Welsh government announced a pause to new road projects to carry out a review. The review panel submitted its report in September 2022. The Cardiff government has now published its response.

The Welsh government has now published its response (which you can read in full here).

Of the 55 road schemes that were assessed, most have now been scrapped including the ‘Red Route’ in Flintshire, M4 improvements and the proposed Third Menai Crossing. Other have been delayed or kicked into the long grass.

Projects now scrapped include:

  • A470 Alltmawr (Chapel House Farm)
  • A5/ A483 Halton Roundabout
  • Chester-Broughton Growth Corridor (North Wales)
  • Mid Wales Safety Schemes: A470 Llangurig, A470 Llanidloes, A470 Pont y Bat (Felinfach), A487 Llanrhystyd, A487 Machynlleth, A487 North of Aberarth
  • A483 Wrexham Bypass J3-6.

The Welsh government says that it will continue to consider road investment in roads (both new and existing) only in the following circumstances:

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  • to support modal shift and reduce carbon emissions.
  • to improve safety through small-scale changes.
  • to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
  • to provide access and connectivity to jobs and centres of economic activity in a way that supports modal shift.

Bypasses to get traffic out of town centres does not seem to qualify as suitable infrastructure for investment in Wales.

The government concludes in its response: “We will still invest in roads: we will still need to provide connections to support sustainable social and economic development, but this must be consistent with Welsh government policy to prioritise public transport and active travel as well as support decarbonisation, modal shift and improve safety, recognising that needs vary across different parts of Wales.

“Reducing and re-prioritising our investment on new road schemes and increasing our investment in sustainable modes will assist modal shift, but it will also deliver wider benefits. These include less air pollution, more successful town and neighbourhood centres and a transport system that is accessible and fair for all. We recognise that this is a big and difficult change, that it won't happen overnight, and it requires us to work collaboratively, across government and beyond.”

The green lobby is delighted. Tim Birch, senior policy and advocacy manager at Wildlife Trusts Wales, said: “It is clear that the Welsh government has recognised that business as usual is not an option when it comes to road building across Wales – the climate and nature emergencies must be urgently addressed. Tackling the emissions from the transport sector, which currently makes up over 15% of the total carbon emissions in Wales, is critical in the fight against climate change. Building more roads to accommodate more cars not only damages the climate but destroys vital habitats for wildlife. That’s why the decision by the Welsh government to set stringent conditions on any new road building is a very important step.

“These conditions include a need to ensure that any future road building does not lead to an increase in the release of carbon from vehicles. But critically, it seeks to ensure that any future roads do not destroy ecologically valuable sites. This step will hopefully see the end to damaging road schemes.”

Wildlife Trusts Wales director Rachel Sharp said: “At long last, we now have a progressive policy. Welsh government should be congratulated for showing bold leadership, which is exactly what’s needed if we are to see the step changes needed to address the nature and climate crisis.”

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