Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change
Last summer I announced a review of all new road schemes funded by Welsh Government and subsequently established a Roads Review Panel comprising independent experts in transport policy, climate change, highway engineering and the freight and logistics sector.
The review was defined in broad terms to enable the Panel to consider a wide range of schemes, and set out recommendations on the conditions where building new roads is the right thing to do.
The Panel Chair has submitted the interim report of the Roads Review Panel with proposals on how the Roads Review will be conducted and the conditions to be considered when assessing alignment to the new Wales Transport Strategy, our well-being goals and Net Zero Wales.
I have considered the Initial Report, agreed the scope of the Roads Review and the inclusion of 55 road schemes to be looked at in more detail by the Panel. The full list of schemes is set out in Table 1. This list of schemes will provide a basis for the panel to provide future looking recommendations on road building in Wales to guide the decision points in other Welsh Government funded road schemes.
Full recommendations on the proposed way forward for each of the 55 schemes will be contained in the final report of the Roads Review Panel to be submitted in the summer.
As part of the work, a specific request was made in relation to the A55 Junction 14/15 and 16/16A improvements scheme. The Roads Review Panel was asked to provide its view on this project as a priority. The Panel recommended that instead of progressing in its current form, that there is a strong case for considering the whole North Wales corridor, as recommended in the Union Connectivity Review final report. I agree with this case and on this basis, I will be establishing a North Wales Transport Commission, led by Lord Burns, which will be responsible for taking an evidence-led approach to develop recommendations for multi-modal, integrated transport solutions.
The Commission will build on the successful model of the South East Wales Transport Commission and the work of the North Wales Metro and will allow us to achieve our decarbonisation and modal shift aims through more efficient, high-quality transport connections across and into North Wales. The North Wales Transport Commission will look at all of North Wales and not just the A55 corridor, and will consider how mode-shift can be achieved in both urban and rural areas.
After a year of working closely with local authorities and Transport for Wales through the South East Wales Transport Commission, we’re starting to see our plans for an integrated public transport network become a reality. This is the collaborative approach we want to build on with the North Wales Transport Commission, and why I am delighted to announce Lord Burns as its Chair.
Clearly this is not the end of investment in the road network in Wales and I am very conscious that we will still need to invest in maintaining our roads, ensuring that the focus and priority is on:
- the avoidance of action which increases carbon emissions
- the reallocation of existing road space
- adaptation of existing road infrastructure to cope with climate change
- investment to maintain safety and serviceability of existing road networks
- the improvement of biodiversity alongside major transport routes
Re-prioritising our transport funding will allow us to increase our efforts to improve sustainable transport mode share and further our investment in public transport and active travel infrastructure. Money saved by not building new roads will be used to improve existing infrastructure, helping to create new bus and cycle lanes that give people a meaningful alternative choice for travel.
None of this is comfortable or easy. But the need for change is urgent and unless we call time on ‘old-style’ road building, we will never be able to provide the excellent public transport that we believe everyone is entitled to.
Climate change is here and the time to act is now. This review is a big step towards changing how we think about our roads infrastructure and how we make investments in it that combat and alleviate the effects of climate change. Therefore this is the start of a journey for us, but I truly believe – in line with our well-being goals – that it will be better for communities, better for the environment, and better for the Welsh economy.