Welsh minister announces commission to look at transport schemes in the north of Wales
A new transport commission that will “develop a pipeline of transport schemes” for the north of Wales has been announced today by the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters.
The year-long review will develop recommendations for road, rail, bus and active travel across the whole of the north of the country.
The North Wales Transport Commission follows the model of the commission set-up after the cancellation of the M4 relief road to look at alternative transport schemes in south-east Wales.
As with the commission in the south-east it will also be led by Lord Terry Burns, former Permanent Secretary of the UK Treasury.
The announcement follows recommendations from the Welsh Government’s Roads Review Panel and the recently published Union Connectivity Review by Network Rail Chair Sir Peter Hendy for a ‘multi-modal’ review of the A55 corridor.
This step follows on from the advice of the Roads Review Panel to cancel current plans for the A55 Junction 14/15 and 16/16A improvements scheme, which Ministers have agreed.
Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters said: “If we are serious about facing up to the Climate Emergency, we have to be willing to do things differently, and critically to give people across north Wales genuine alternatives to using their cars for most journeys.
“As well as looking at the A55 corridor, the North Wales Transport Commission will also look at how we can improve sustainable transport options in rural areas. This will need a shift of investment towards public transport and I’m very pleased Lord Burns has agreed to lead a panel of local experts to set out a detailed list of projects that will be needed to make this a reality.
“This does not mean the end of road building, but it does mean a greater emphasis on looking after the roads we already have as well as investing in alternatives to give people a real choice.”
Emissions from transport will need to be cut by around a half if Wales is to hit its net zero ambitions by 2050, the Welsh Government has said.
In the new transport strategy published last year, it said that “we need to change the way we travel. We need fewer cars on our roads, and more people using public transport, walking or cycling”.
The same report said that “emissions from surface transport must be roughly halved between 2020 and 2030 from 6 to 3 million tonnes Carbon Dioxide”.
However, the freeze on new road schemes, particularly the A55 and M4, has been criticised by the UK Government.
“We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking the M4 or A55 are just Welsh roads,” Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said last June after the freeze was announced.
“They are as important to people on the English side of the border and they are UK wide assets. If we are not able to improve them, then we are not just impeding economic recovery in Wales, but also the rest of the UK and beyond.
“[The decision] is a pity, I’m assuming they are looking through this as net zero, but that doesn’t rely on a total freeze on road infrastructure in Wales.”
The Welsh Government’s decision not to proceed with the much-delayed £14m Llanbedr bypass project also attracted criticism from Plaid Cymru, with the leader of Gwynedd Council Dyfrig Siencyn saying he was “furious”.
He said that such decisions in areas with very little public transport meant that they were now “consigned into economic deserts and empty communities”.
Lee Waters said at the time that he would provide funding for an “alternative package of measures to address the negative impact of traffic in Llanbedr and in other villages on the A496”.