Welsh road building projects stopped after failing climate review
Dozens of road building projects across Wales have been halted or amended as part of a “groundbreaking” policy that reassessed more than 50 schemes against a series of tough tests on their impact on the climate emergency.
Only 15 of the projects reviewed by an expert roads review panel will go ahead in their original form, with others scaled back, postponed or in some cases shelved.
Lee Waters, the deputy climate change minister in the Labour-led Welsh government, described the decisions as “groundbreaking” and green campaigners characterised the administration’s approach as “world-leading”.
Waters accepted the policy would attract criticism from some. “It’s always difficult to make decisions with short-term pain for long-term gain,” he said. However, he insisted a “llwybr newydd” (new path) was needed.
“We will not get to net zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over,” he said.
Among the projects halted are a third Menai Bridge linking Anglesey and the mainland while a controversial “red route” scheme in Flintshire, north Wales, a major new road that threatened ancient woodland and wildflower meadows, will not go ahead as planned.
Changes to the A483 around Wrexham will also be scrapped and a review will be set up to consider an “exemplar” project to reduce car usage.
Waters said: “We will still invest in roads. We are building new roads but we are raising the bar for where new roads are the right response to transport problems. We are also investing in real alternatives, including investment in rail, bus, walking and cycling projects.
“Our approach for the last 70 years is not working. The bypass that was demanded to relieve congestion often ends up leading to extra traffic, which in time brings further demands for extra lanes, wider junctions and more roads.
“Round and round we go, emitting more and more carbon as we do it, and we will not get to net zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over.”
The roads review was announced in June 2021, freezing all road-building projects. An independent panel was then created and tasked with reviewing the projects considered part of the review.
Waters added that, in any case, the Welsh government did not have the budget to build all the roads that were planned because its capital budget was being reduced by the UK government. “With fewer resources it becomes even more important to prioritise,” he said.
Haf Elgar, the director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, called the policy “world-leading”. She said: “This is a breath of fresh air that promises a greener and fairer transport system in Wales. The response of the Welsh government shows they are serious about tackling the climate emergency.”
However, the Welsh shadow minister for transport, the Conservative Natasha Asghar, said the plans were confusing. “The mystery, mayhem and chaos surrounding Labour’s plan for infrastructure hasn’t gone away.” she said.
“Labour must provide more clarity as to the future of infrastructure in Wales, provide meaningful improvements and stop simply kicking the economic prospects of businesses in Wales into the long grass.”
Glenn Lyons, a professor of future mobility at University of the West of England Bristol and a member of the expert panel, said: “World-leading should be used sparingly but I have no hesitation in using it when it comes to the Welsh government and its willingness to step back, question what we’ve always done and ask whether a different way ahead is now needed for road investment.”