Welsh road review ignored the public, according to the former Labour transport minister

Kenneth Skates

Following the cancellation of all significant road projects, the Welsh government has come under fire from a former Labour transport minister.

According to Ken Skates, the roads review halted the majority of road investment without putting forward strategies for enhancing public transportation.

There should never be another review that "ignores citizens," the backbencher argued.

Lee Waters, the deputy minister of transportation, said that to improve air quality, ministers would collaborate with local authorities.

The announcement, which came after a year-long review, led some Labour backbenchers to publicly criticize the Welsh government.

Wales won't reach net-zero carbon emissions, according to Mr. Waters, who defended the decision on Tuesday, "unless we stop doing the same thing over and over again.".

None of this is simple, but the alternative is also not, he said.

The expert review panel, headed by transportation consultant Lynn Sloman, evaluated 59 road projects and provided recommendations on which ones should be carried out, which ones should be scrapped, and which ones should be given another look.

15 of these will be implemented; the remaining 14 have either been rejected or will undergo significant revision.

Up until shortly after the most recent Senedd election in 2021, Mr. Skates served as economy minister and oversaw transport policy.

The MP for Clwyd South told BBC Wales that there should never be another review that ignores the public and results in hardly any interaction with influential figures and elected officials. ".

The A483 junction improvements near Wrexham were among the projects shelved.

The A483 project, according to him, was "planned to remove the traffic from those local roads that were polluting the air, [and] that are damaging the environment because of sky-high carbon emissions.".

"I'm concerned that, as far as I know, the panel didn't actually interact with any communities. It didn't interact with members of the local government. There was very little interaction with council highways officers.

We received a diktat that essentially stated that crucial infrastructure construction would not proceed due to a decision made 140 miles away and that there were no other options that could be disclosed at this time. ".

Ken Skates
According to Ken Skates, he would have "ensured that we collaborate with councils.".

In response to Mr. Skates' worries about the A483 in the Senedd on Tuesday, Mr. Waters stated that ministers would keep collaborating with the local government to find a solution to the area's air quality issues.

But he continued: "It has been repeatedly demonstrated that expanding road capacity will only increase traffic, which will ultimately worsen air quality and harm the climate.

We must be ready to implement the policies we've laid out, even though I recognize that these are occasionally difficult trade-offs and that we all have to take into account the needs of our local constituencies—he is not the only one who has these concerns. ".

We all want to hit net-zero targets, Mr. Skates said. But in order to do that, you must also make sure that you have company.

"You must offer an alternative if you don't want people to drive cars.

"What we had was a road review that, for the most part, effectively halted investment in roads without a parallel plan or a forward-thinking strategy for enhancing bus, rail, or active travel. ".

  • Wales experienced a traffic peak of 19 billion vehicle miles in 2019 and a recovery to 16.5 billion miles in 2021 following a significant drop in the pandemic.
  • The M4 near Swansea has experienced the largest increase, with traffic levels increasing by almost 39% between junctions 36 and 35 over the past 20 years.
  • An average of 65,500 vehicles travel north on the A494 near Ewloe in Flintshire each day, making it the third busiest A-road in Wales. This is an increase of 29 percent over the previous 20 years.
  • Nearly 84 percent of Wales' daily commuters, or just over one million people, drive or ride motorcycles.
  • The highest percentages of people in Cardiff commute to work by bus, train, or bicycle.

He demanded that joint committees of councils in north Wales be given control over the trunk road networks.

Mr. Skates questioned the implications for Cardiff Airport, sea ports, and ferry services and said that if he had been the minister, he would have conducted the review in a different way.

"I would have ensured that we collaborate with councils, communities, as many people as possible, and that we don't just rely on the expertise of a few. ".

The Welsh government declared that all future roads must meet strict requirements, including that they must not increase carbon emissions, the number of vehicles on the road, speed, or emissions, and they must not have a negative impact on the environment.

The contentious "red route" in Flintshire was one of the projects shelved and won't proceed as intended. Instead, the A494 at Aston Hill will receive improvements.

Green activists praised the decision as "world leading and brave.".

"Bold action is needed to address the climate emergency," said Christine Boston of the cycling organization Sustrans Cymru.

"This is such a great step, so many people and organizations are celebrating.

"Over the years, there has been a lot of public discussion about the future generations act, and this choice is entirely consistent with that. Net zero is given top priority. ".

graph showing traffic volume at key road areas in Wales

However, business organizations are worried.

The decision, according to Mike Plaut, a former CBI Wales chairman, gave the impression that Wales was "closed for business.".

"A prosperous Wales is one of the Future Generations Act's goals, and this seems to move us in the opposite direction," he said.

"We must develop solutions that benefit jobs while not harming the Welsh economy.

"We run the risk of sliding into economic obscurity. ".

Ben Cottom, president of the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, continued, "Areas of Wales desperately need improvements to existing infrastructure, as well as the assurance that future infrastructure will be resilient.

. "

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