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People in Wales ‘oppose the scrapping of road schemes’, says new poll

21 Jul 2023 6 minute read
Picture by Lewis Clarke (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Martin Shipton

More people in Wales oppose the Welsh Government’s ban on building most new roads as a measure to tackle climate change than support it, according to a new poll.

The policy was introduced in February and followed First Minister Mark Drakeford’s decision in 2019 not to proceed with the M4 relief road in Newport on environmental and cost grounds.

A poll commissioned from Opinium by Britain Remade, a pro-growth group founded by Sam Richards, a former special adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Prime Minister, shows that 49% are opposed to the ban, while 33% support it and 18% of the Welsh population say they don’t know.

People responded to the poll after being played a message which said: “Earlier this year, the Welsh Government announced that all major road-building projects would be scrapped. No new road project in Wales will get funding if it will have the capacity for more vehicles than the existing roads or if it will allow those vehicles to travel more quickly. To what extent do you support or oppose the ban on building new road projects in Wales?”

Following the year-long review by the Welsh Roads Panel, 55 road building projects were scrapped by the Welsh Government on climate grounds.

Almost half (49%) also thought that banning road building would be ineffective at reducing overall carbon emissions in Wales.

This view is said to have been backed up by research conducted by Britain Remade, which concluded that continuing to deliver new road projects which cut traffic congestion, speed up journey times and increase economic growth can happen at the same time as tackling climate change.

Carbon emissions

The research, which looked at the impact of Westminster’s main scheme for building and upgrading Britain’s motorways and major roads, claims to dispel the “myth” that the easiest way to cut carbon emissions is to stop building new road infrastructure.

It found that CO2 emissions from road transport increased by just 0.1% from the 370 miles of road built through the Department for Transport’s Road Investment Strategy 1 between 2015 and 2020. This included emissions from both building and maintaining the roads and the extra journeys that the new roads encourage.

According to Britain Remade, the research found that carbon emissions from motorists are expected to plummet by 64% by 2050, compared to 2020 levels, as motorists make the switch from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles. This is despite an expected 18% increase in total miles driven during the same time period.

The latest polling also found that half of people in Wales (50%) thought the ban on building new roads would have a negative impact on the economy.

The polling demonstrated wide opposition to the road building ban across the political spectrum, with 67% of Conservative voters, 46% of Labour voters and 43% of Plaid Cymru voters all against. By contrast, 26% of Conservative voters, 38% of Labour voters and 39% of Plaid Cymru backed the new roads ban.

the Menai Suspension Bridge (foreground) and Britannia bridge

In north Wales, the decision by the Welsh Government to scrap the Third Menai bridge over the Menai Strait from Anglesey to mainland Wales has also been challenged by the polling, with close to half (46%) of people within the region against scrapping the new crossing. The shelving of the project was seen as a blow to the local economy in Anglesey as the scheme would have supported plans for a Small Modular Reactor at the Wylfa nuclear power station site.

Mr Richards said: “Our polling has revealed huge levels of opposition to the Welsh Government’s barmy policy of banning new roads being built from across the political spectrum, which just goes to show how badly thought through the policy is.

“If we want to tackle climate change the answer is not banning new roads. All this will achieve is more congestion and longer journey times, while strangling economic growth and job creation in Wales.

“Instead, we need to build roads fit for the future, lined with a plentiful supply of electric vehicle charging stations so that drivers have the freedom to make the switch when the time is right for them.

“The switch to electric vehicles isn’t going to happen overnight. The Welsh Government needs to get ready for the future by building the infrastructure it needs now, so drivers are confident they’ll be able to quickly and easily get from A to B without a second thought.

“Yes, we need to be investing in new railways, new trams and new cycle paths, but we also need to invest in roads, which is the way most people get to work. They should be helping drivers, not punishing them.”

‘Raising the bar’

In February, when the new policy was announced by Deputy Transport Minister Lee Waters, he told the Senedd: “We will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over’

“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 total sample size for the poll was 2,001 Welsh adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between June 30 and July 11.The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Wales adults aged 18+.


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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
11 months ago

What do you get if you cross low education standards with poor funding for public transport options and a culture based on selfish individualism? The people that think we need more roads in a country where people can’t even afford to feed their own children. Can’t have more cars on the road dumbs-dumbs, need to have much less…. Also name me five people from North East Cymru who ever went anywhere else in Cymru that wasn’t to do with a sporting event or concert, to pick up some weed when there has been a drought or really big crimes? You… Read more »

JimJam
JimJam
11 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

I moved to south Wales in 2020, there really is an ‘anti-car’ sentiment within the powers that be. The roads (certainly here) are in a shocking state of repair, and too much money is wasted on schemes that won’t prove of any significant benefit – the 20mph limit introduction for example.

The whole ‘15 minute city’ isn’t currently viable, and trying to phase out the car/lorry road transport network is foolish. There are much better ways to tackle pollution, but as usual, it’s the motorist that suffers.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
11 months ago
Reply to  JimJam

Oh dear, another poor old hard done by motorist.

Do you even know what a ‘fifteen minute city’ actually is? Answer: it isn’t what the right-wing conspiracy theory pedalling nut jobs tell you it is.

Gareth
Gareth
11 months ago

Our Gov have not actually “banned ” road building, but are investigating whether to build a new road is the best way forward or is there an alternative, where the money could be better spent. There are 15 projects going ahead as planned as of Feb 2023 , eg A487, A4076, A4042. A former adviser to Boris conducts a poll with a leading question, and gets the desired result, what a surprise.

karl
karl
11 months ago

And where are all these cars going to park? We have gridlock on its way in the valleys. Everyone with multiple car when the houses have no drives and are terraced. Narrow routes down residential streets as car parked both sides or even over pavements.The future has to be more public transport, not just more roads. But when the upgrades to the valley lines are going so badly and bus services are cutback. Thats killing off people making decisions to use public transport and forcing them into cars. and thats just a small glimpse of a little bit of Cymru.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
11 months ago
Reply to  karl

I live in Pembrokeshire, for years people have been arguing for better road routes to west Wales on the grounds that it would ‘good for business’.

They have improved the roads to the point where it now only takes around 30 minutes to get from Haverfordwest to Carmarthen (when I was a child it took over an hour). The result? Everyone now goes to Carmarthen, Swansea or Cardiif and Haverfordwest is a ghost town.

So it was good for business, just not ours.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
11 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

Absolutely! Many years ago there was a scheme to bypass Bethesda in North Wales, but that launched a huge local campaign against the measure as someone realised that a bypass would also bypass the local economy, and that the town would no longer benefit from passing trade.

I think that now there are a few places in Wales that now reflect on the wisdom of campaigning for a bypass. Certainly traffic needs to be efficiently managed (and some, such as heavy lorries, completely removed) but sometimes having a bypass also kills off the town commercially.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
11 months ago

I think Mark Drakeford & Welsh Labour’s ban on building new roads citing environment is a smokescreen where in reality Whitehall has cut our block with their funding rehash and that they will not give the Welsh Government any additional resources to build or kept their promised to “free the nostrils of the dragon” with the M4 relief road pledged by that lump of lard Boris Johnson in 2019 when he was electioneering in Newport. And I wish those wanting more road infrastructure built in that poll highlighted was as proactive regarding Welsh democracy as Wales wouldn’t be stuck in… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Y Cymro
Annibendod
Annibendod
11 months ago

The number of cars on the road is ludicrous. Mile after mile of individual drivers in a vehicle built for 5 … which seem to be getting bigger and bigger each year. Families with multiple cars. The car is king mentality is choking our streets and our lungs. The best solution is investment in public transport and active travel. People need viable alternatives. For some single seater EV’s would work. But we can’t carry on as we are.

Stuart
Stuart
11 months ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Some of those writing here obviously don’t live in the country, public transport, What’s that? Please explain as I am a little confused

The original mark
The original mark
11 months ago

So another right wing think tank comes up with an opinion poll that is pro tory and anti Welsh Labour, surprise surprise.

CapM
CapM
11 months ago

I can’t find a link to the research (or the poll) Britain Remade says it undertook to back up what appears to be little more than rhetoric on their website.
Can anyone help.

Notttabottt
Notttabottt
11 months ago

Very fishy organisation, apparently funded by charitable and climate orgs, but all their media is anti devo and very England/Britain centric in making decisions for all the UK

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
11 months ago

Not in Llanbedr.
But thats North Wales !

Stuart
Stuart
11 months ago

Some on this blog obviously don’t live in the country, must be town dwellers, public transport, what’s that?

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