UK transport review ‘continues all roads lead to London obsession’ by focussing on Wales-England routes
The UK Government’s new review on connecting different parts of the UK continues and “obsession” with an “all roads lead to London” approach, Plaid Cymru have said.
The Welsh Conservatives however said it would “see significant expansion and improvements in our transport infrastructure”.
The Wales-specific recommendations in the interim report published today focus mainly on building rail connectivity between the north of Wales and England and the south of Wales and England.
The review also mentions relieving congestion on the M4 corridor near Newport and improving the east-west A55 in the north of Wales.
The interim report was written by Peter Hendy, the Chair of Network Rail, who was tasked by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson with exploring ways in which transport can better connect the nations of the UK.
The report proposes a new “UK Strategic Transport Network” to oversee the UK Government’s transport priorities.
Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts MP said that the review shows that the “UK Government’s ‘levelling up agenda’ is hollow” and that its aim is to “further divide Wales into north and south spheres attached to England-oriented regional development strategies”.
The report itself justifies focusing on cross border routes, saying that “the population of Wales is heavily concentrated in the very south and very north of the country”.
“Because of geography, unlike the other nations, there are significant cross- border commuting flows to and from England,” it says.
“Jobs in Bristol and the Midlands are accessible from Cardiff and Newport in the south, and jobs in Liverpool, Stoke and Manchester are accessible from north Wales.
“Almost all of these commuting trips are by car and this contributes to road congestion problems in the peak, most notably on the M4 in the south.”
Ms Saville Roberts said that it “beggars belief” that Wales still lacks a north-south rail link and that while cross-border links are needed, “any ambition to improve cross-border transport must prioritise improving transport links within Wales first as an essential foundation”.
“Yet again, we see that the UK Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda is hollow, with the Hendy Review continuing Westminster’s ‘all roads lead to London’ obsession,” she said.
“Its aim is to further divide Wales into north and south spheres attached to England-oriented regional development strategies, hampering our all-Wales economy.
“It beggars belief that in 2021, Wales still has no north-south rail link. Proper cross-border links are of course needed. But any ambition to improve cross-border transport must prioritise improving transport links within Wales first as an essential foundation for improved cross-border connections.”
Welsh Conservative shadow economy and transport minister Russell George MS however said that the report was to be welcomed.
“The past year has seen severe pressures on people’s jobs and businesses in Wales,” he said.
“Today’s bold proposals would see significant expansion and improvements in our transport infrastructure, which is critical in ensuring Welsh jobs and businesses bounce back after the pandemic.
“Welsh Conservatives will build a better Wales and improve our nation’s infrastructure by working constructively with the UK Government, not against it.”