Ry'n ni Yma o Hyd ... with the same old roads
As someone who lived close enough to the Ewloe junction of the A55/A494 that the buzz of the endless stream of cars became a part of my internal monologue, I feel I am well placed to pass judgement on the Welsh Government’s decision to shelve most major road projects – including the improvements to the A55.
The ability to pass judgment was not, however, afforded to me during the review.
The decision was made in Cardiff without consultation with the communities that will be impacted by investment, or lack of. As a professional who specialises in and recognises the benefit of community consultation, the lack of engagement with affected stakeholders is a double kick in the teeth.
Under the Welsh Government’s Roads Review, nearly all road building projects across Wales have either been delayed, amended or scrapped completely. The decision has been made on environmental grounds to reduce carbon levels across the country.
I very much class myself as an environmentalist, and I also happen to be a huge admirer of Welsh Government and its forward-thinking approach. However, the decision to make major Welsh roads as inaccessible as possible to disincentivise the use of cars, without local consultation – whilst not simultaneously announcing any improvements to the public transport network – seems a flawed approach.
Anybody who has been on the A55 on a Friday evening ahead of a bank holiday weekend will be familiar with the struggles of a congested road full of people getting to their weekend retreats on or around Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula. These people are not going to stop people driving to their destinations, causing slow moving traffic on local roads that disproportionately pollutes the surrounding areas.
Those people who are going to Anglesey will have to continue tackling the bottle neck getting onto the island, as the third Menai crossing was among the projects that got shelved, along with the A483 project designed to alleviate traffic concerns and improve air quality in local communities around Wrexham.
It’s a difficult pill to swallow for people in Wales, especially in Northeast Wales – where major infrastructure spending has been lacking. Big infrastructure projects, that local communities are behind, can contribute to the green economy, stimulate inclusive growth and act as a catalyst for further investment.
As a proud Northeast Walian, I’d like to see more of these projects in an area that possesses so much potential. I fear, however, that until its transport links are improved, that potential will remain unfulfilled.
For now, I will continue to do my best not to get annoyed when I’m stuck behind a tractor going 25mph up Aston Hill – the gateway to North Wales.