Opinion

Forget the ‘red wall’ – it’s the Red Route that could cost Labour in the north-east at the Senedd election

15 Apr 2021 4 minutes Read
An anri-Red Route poster, with artist pictured. Picture provided by the article author

Tom Rippeth, STAMP out the Red Route

The election gun has now sounded and… we’re off! New roads will be an election issue this time around, with the Conservatives stating that if they form the next Welsh Government, they will resurrect the M4 Relief Road.

However, in a bizarre role reversal, in Flintshire, Labour is stubbornly hanging on to its proposal for a new £300 million 12 kilometre dual carriageway, dubbed the Red Route.

The Red Route would cut through a solar park, ancient woodland and meadows, an award-winning organic farm and allotments run by a local co-operative group.

Plaid Cymru MS Llyr Huws Gruffydd has spoken out against it in the Senedd, and the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Green Party of Wales have come out against it ahead of the election.

Mark Isherwood, regional MS and the Conservative candidate for Delyn, where the Red Route would be situated, is so concerned about it that he has referred it to Audit Wales.

But Ken Skates, the minister for transport, finds himself in the Alice in Wonderland position of vehemently supporting First Minister Mark Drakeford’s rejection of the M4 Relief Road – citing post- COVID-19 work patterns and climate change – whilst at the same time equally vehemently supporting the Red Route, and studiously ignoring these very reasons he gave for rejecting the M4 Relief Road!

Bind

The results of the 2019 UK general election also provide a worrying sign for Labour, with the Red Wall Labour seats of Delyn and Clwyd South both falling to the Conservatives.

Now the politics around the Red Route risk becoming a significant factor in the outcome of the election Wales-wide. National opinion polls are indicating a Labour victory, but short of an overall majority, with Plaid the likely coalition partner.

However, the Conservatives have identified Delyn, where the Red Route is located, as a target seat for them. The Red Route is hugely unpopular across affected communities and beyond in the constituency, such as Northop, Flint, Flint Mountain and Oakenholt, but sitting Labour MS Hannah Blythyn has been very silent on it, despite being pressed about it on numerous occasions.

Ms Blythyn is a junior minister, so joint ministerial responsibility ties her hands somewhat, but she finds herself in something of a bind. With 1500 people signing a petition to the Senedd Petitions Committee against the Red Route she faces a real prospect of losing her seat on this issue, with the Committee recently recommending the pausing the Red Route after an unprecedented 18-month investigation.

If you would like a side order of irony with that, the MS for the neighbouring constituency, Clwyd South is none other than Mr Skates himself, an enthusiastic proponent and supporter of the Red Route through thick and thin. It is likely that he will also face some blowback from the Red Route controversy, which could well play a part in unseating him as well.

Worse

The drumbeat of opposition to the Red Route is sounding ever louder, even within the Labour Party, with Labour-lead Flintshire County Council opposing the scheme unless other significant traffic measures are carried out first, and their impact assessed before embarking on this leviathan of a road scheme. Ironically, these demands were made at the Petitions Committee by Carolyn Thomas, deputy leader of Flintshire County Council, who is also number one on the Labour North Wales Regional list, and is therefore a potential beneficiary of either Ms Blythyn or Mr Skates losing their seats.

In the last few days as the border opens up, holiday traffic has again started to build up in the area. Amazingly, traffic studies for the Red Route carried out by Mr Skates’ department didn’t consider the impact of the proposed new road on holiday traffic, and some experts consider that the Red Route would make the traffic situation even worse in the communities around the proposed new road.

With the election so finely balanced, losing one Labour seat because of a 12 kilometre dual carriage way could be considered careless, but losing two Labour seats, including two ministers of the Welsh Government on the altar of the Red Route takes us into a whole new territory.

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Rory Francis
1 month ago

Erthygl difyr dros ben! Os hoffech chi godi’r mater yma efo’ch ymgeiswyr chi, mae modd gwneud hyn yn hawdd arlein yma: Dileuwch gynllun y Llwybr Coch | North Wales Wildlife Trust

Great article! If you’d like to raise this important issue with your candidates in the election, you can do this easily online here: Stop the Red Route Road Scheme in Flintshire | North Wales Wildlife Trust

Graham
Graham
1 month ago

Don’t know about Alice in Wonderland, seems more like a pantomime to me! Oh no it isn’t – Oh yes it is! However, serious objective analysis cannot deny the Red Route is extremely environmentally damaging & massively contrary to policies the current Welsh Government has passed in seeking to subscribe to a better future! Seeking to implement plans to deal with current problems, e.g., the Red Route, should at least be based on proper factual analysis of the problem; NOT on which this development is based. If the Red Route proposals are sound, why did the Senedd Petitions Committee recommend… Read more »

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
29 days ago

The Red route has only come about due to the inadequacy of the A494 to cope with the volume of traffic and by creating an alternative route disperses the traffic volumes through the most congested areas of Queensferry and Ewloe. The environmental impact is a concern but unless you come up with an alternative option to the problems on the A494 the red route remains a very viable solution.

Llais gwyrdd
Llais gwyrdd
29 days ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

But it isn’t a solution to the problem, it moves it a little over 2 miles to merge 4 lanes into 2 at a major chock point on the A55, the bottom of the Halkyn Hill? As a starting point how about reducing commuter traffic by 30% by encouraging more home working (which if I am not mistaken is a post-COVID WAG policy?). And how about a second bridge across the Dee at Queensferry to remove the main A494 chock point … oh yes, that is in progress as well, maybe wait and see what the impact is? Check out… Read more »

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
29 days ago
Reply to  Llais gwyrdd

I’m not sure of the numbers but simple logic would tell me that 100% of the traffic leaving the M56 heading into North wales currently head along the A494 with some leaving and entering at each junction. If you allowed those vehicles wishing to go beyond Northop a more direct route then you would possibly half the vehicles on both roads thereby removing congestion on the A494. Is that too simplistic or am I missing something.

Llais gwyrdd
Llais gwyrdd
29 days ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

maybe missing something? That option already exists as there an alternative route between the M56 and A55, the A55 south of Chester. Re: traffic heading in the North Wales, if the Red Route existed any traffic heading for the Rhyl or Prestatyn areas would leave after the Flint Bridge and head along the A548 making the already miserable traffic situation in Flint even worse!

Felicity Hodgkinson
Felicity Hodgkinson
29 days ago

Quite unbelievably, given an election looms, candidates such as Hannah Blythyn have routinely neglected to respond to direct requests to discuss the issue with her constituents DIRECTLY impacted by the proposed scheme. Surely engaging with potential supporters for re-election would be a smart idea, rather than sweeping them under the carpet. The Red Route simply will not ease any of the congestion, it will simply move the problem slightly, uprooting communities with huge impact on local communities and at a massive cost to the environment, not to mention costing £300 million plus from the public purse when the money is… Read more »

Spike
Spike
29 days ago

I thought I read somewhere that the Welsh Govt has a target of 30% of workers working from home ! Commuting has plummeted during the pandemic, and ain’t going to go back to pre-COVID levels, that’s for sure, so how can Ken Skates justify this ? Hannah Blythyn needs to march down the corridor into his office, and start banging the table, otherwise it looks, from this article, like she’s going to lose her seat. All for a massive, costly and pointless road project, which should be a museum exhibit, not an actual scheme on the drawing board.

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