Conwy road bridge

Wales scraps all major road building projects due to environmental concerns

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Welsh government has scrapped all major road-building projects in order to focus on infrastructure initiatives that “reduce carbon emissions and support a shift to public transport, walking and cycling”.

Lee Waters, deputy minister for economy and transport, unveiled the decision as part of the country's ‘National Transport Plan’. 

“We will still invest in roads," Waters said during the announcement. "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.”

Waters added that the department's budget is expected to be 8 per cent lower next year, "as a result of the UK government’s failure to invest in infrastructure". 

Last year, the Welsh government paused 55 road projects, pending a review by the Welsh Roads Review Panel led by transport expert Dr. Lynn Sloman. 

The panel's conclusions have meant that a third Menai bridge will no longer be built and neither will the Red Route in Flintshire. Of all the projected infrastructure projects reviewed by the panel, only 15 have been given the go-ahead. 

These include smaller-scale improvements in the A4042 corridor from Pontypool; the M4 through Torfaen; the A487 between Fishguard and Cardigan, and the A4076 at Haverfordwest.

Environmental and transport campaigners have welcomed the move, calling it “world-leading” and “bold”, while members of the construction industry have warned it could put jobs at risk. 

Flintshire council leader Ian Roberts was disappointed by the decision.

"The council is concerned that there are currently no alternative solutions being put forward and no funding for much-needed improvement works to local transport infrastructure," he said.

Blaenau Gwent's Alun Davies called for "more joined-up thinking" by ministers.

"If we're going to take services away from people in terms of distance, then what we have to be able to do is to provide the public transport options available for people to reach those services and that hasn't happened," he said.

In response, Waters insisted new roads would be built in future, but said the government was "raising the bar" to ensure any new road was "the right response to transport problems".

Waters also pointed to the £1.6bn scheme for a North and South Wales Metro system and the bus franchising bill currently going through the Senedd. Instead of the controversial Red Route in Flintshire, improvements will now be made to the A494 at Aston Hill.

He also stressed that the plans for a third Menai crossing between Anglesey and mainland Wales have been replaced by a review into how to improve congestion, ensure the resilience of the current bridges and encourage people to use other modes of travel.

However, in the future, the Welsh government will not consider new projects unless they reduce carbon emissions and support a shift to public transport, walking and cycling, improve safety through small-scale change and help the Welsh government adapt to the effects of climate change.

They must also provide connections to jobs and areas of economic activity in a way that maximises the use of public transport, walking and cycling.

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