A vast number of the planned road building schemes in Wales have been cancelled, as the country’s Government prioritises environmental concerns.
Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters says he’s putting climate change at the heart of decision making, saying “we will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over.”
The decision is based on the findings of the Roads Review Panel – an independent expert group tasked with assessing 59 road building projects – and the Welsh Government’s National Transport Delivery Plan.
Construction projects scrapped include a third Menai bridge and the expansion of the A55 in Flintshire, improvements to the M4 and several schemes in Mid Wales.
Speaking in the Welsh parliament, the Senedd, Lee Waters said: “When we published the Wales Transport Strategy two years ago, we committed to start upon a llwybr newydd – a new path. The publication of this Roads Review, along with the National Transport Delivery Plan, and our new Roads Policy Statement, represents a major step forward on that journey.
“Let me be very clear at the outset, we will still invest in roads. In fact, we are building new roads as I speak – but we are raising the bar for where new roads are the right response to transport problems. We are also investing in real alternatives, including investment in rail, bus, walking and cycling projects.
“Of course, doing that in an age of austerity is very challenging. Not only are we not getting our share of HS2 investment, but the UK Government is pushing many bus services over a cliff edge, as well as slashing our capital investment budgets.
“Even if we’d wanted to keep progressing all the road schemes in the pipeline we just do not have the money to do so. Our capital budget will be 8% lower next year in real terms as a result of the UK Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure.
“With fewer resources it becomes even more important to prioritise and the Roads Review helps us to do that.”
The roads review was announced by the Deputy Minister in June 2021 freezing all road building projects.
An independent panel was then created and tasked with reviewing the projects considered part of the review.
The panel was led by transport consultant Dr Lynn Sloman MBE, a specialist environmental and sustainable transport consultancy focussing on design and evaluation of sustainable transport investment programmes. She presented its findings to Welsh Government in September last year
The findings made key recommendations from the panel, including four new road building tests which mean they will only be built if they:
- Reduce carbon emissions and support a shift to public transport, walking and cycling
- improve safety through small-scale change
- help the Welsh Government adapt to the impacts of climate change
- provide connections to jobs and areas of economic activity in a way that maximises the use of public transport, walking and cycling
The rules mean that, in developing schemes, the focus should be on minimising carbon emissions, not increasing road capacity, not increasing emissions through higher vehicle speeds and not adversely affecting ecologically valuable sites.
Mr Waters continued: “Our approach for the last 70 years is not working. As the review points out the by-pass that was demanded to relieve congestion often ends up leading to extra traffic, which in time brings further demands for extra lanes, wider junctions and more roads.
“Round and round we go, emitting more and more carbon as we do it and we will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over. When Julie James and I took up our new roles, we made clear that in this decade Wales has to make greater cuts in emissions than we have in the whole of the last three decades combined. Greater cuts in the next ten years than the whole of the last 30 – that’s what the science says we need to do if we are to future-proof Wales.
“The UN General Secretary has warned that unless we act decisively now we face a ‘climate catastrophe’. If we are to declare a Climate and Nature Emergency, legislate to protect the Well-being of Future Generations, and put into law a requirement to reach NetZero by 2050 – we simply have to be prepared to follow through.”
A small amount of the 59 projects have been classed as local authority schemes or economic development schemes.
The 15 local authority schemes will be considered in future transport grant funding rounds, subject to meeting the future road building tests and our commitments in the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
(Picture – Traffic Wales)