UK Gov complains about building freeze: M4 and A55 ‘are not just Welsh roads’
The UK Government has complained about a move to freeze all new-road building projects in Wales, by saying that the M4 and A55 are not “just Welsh roads”.
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart hit out after the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters announced that the freeze would take place while a review is carried out.
The projects currently in the planning phase include a new bridge over the Menai, a new a new eight-mile stretch of dual carriageway to ease congestion on the A55 in the north-east, and the Llandeilo bypass. The latter was agreed in a deal with Plaid Cymru for the 2017-18 budget.
Emissions from transport will need to be cut by around a half if Wales is to hit its net zero ambitions by 2050.
The deputy minister, Lee Waters, said Wales had to take action to “significantly cut carbon emissions”.
In response, Hart said told The National at a lobby briefing: “I don’t think it fits with the agenda [for economic recovery] particularly comfortably.
“We are looking at ways in which we can kickstart the economy, that requires investment in road and rail.
“If we are serious about trying to ween people off the need for a foreign holiday, we need a road network that supports that, not to mention the construction jobs associated with road build projects.
“It seems like me to be putting a break on economic recovery, and it will leave one or two people feeling a little mystified.”
“We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking the M4 or A55 are just Welsh roads.
“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.”
“We are just coming out of 16 months of extraordinary economic pressure, and it just feels like the wrong attitude. We should be straining every sinew to make things quicker, easier and more efficient.”
When he announced the freeze, Lee Waters said: “Today, in my role as Deputy Climate Change Minister I’m announcing a pause in all roads schemes not under construction while we review how much headroom we have keep building new roads and meet our Net Zero emissions targets by 2050,” he said.
“I’m asking a panel of experts to look at when new roads are justified – for safety or access reasons for example and how we can redirect funding to roads maintenance and public transport.
“A Climate Emergency demands that we do things differently.”
In the Welsh Government’s new transport strategy published earlier this year, he 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”.
The review will be announced in the Senedd this afternoon.
It comes after plans for a new M4 relief road passed Newport were ditched in 2019. The decision not to go ahead with the road was made by First Minister Mark Drakeford due to environmental concerns and increasing estimated costs.
Planning protection for the route was scrapped after 25 years, which means that other developments can now be built there. Highways and transport are a devolved issue, despite UK Government expressing a desire to intervene to get the road built.