Mark Drakeford says ‘let’s build a road’ attitude to congestion can’t …
Mark Drakeford says the 'let's build a road' attitude to solve road congestion can't continue in a climate emergency. The First Minister today held a meeting with political leaders from Ireland and the North West of England about strengthening economic connections between the nations and regions.
They highlighted the close relationship between North Wales and the North West - with thousands travelling across the border each day - often leaving bottlenecks and congestion on key routes.
But Welsh Government has scrapped the Flintshire 'Red Route' designed to ease those pressures after the roads review that also put a new Menai crossing in the slow lane.
North Wales Live asked whether scrapping road schemes to boost capacity and resilience made sense at a time the region was trying to build links to the east and west.
In response Mr Drakeford, who was hosting Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram and Consul General of Ireland Denise McQuade, firstly said the third Menai crossing had not been scrapped.
He added: "The Menai crossing remains a project we will continue to explore. The original basis of the project fell away when the UK Government didn't take forward its plans for Wylfa B because the funding of the third Menai crossing depended fundamentally on the contributions that would come from that new industry. It is not a scrapped project, it is project we continue to work at and as the opportunities arise we will look at again."
On wider road building, he said: "We have talked a lot as we have gone around today about the renewable energy future we can create between Ireland, ourselves and the North West of England, and if you are serious about climate change, and the Welsh Government is absolutely serious about it, you cannot simply go on acting as though the climate emergency does not affect the car, because it does.(Image: Welsh Government)
"Of all the areas in which we have been able to reduce carbon emissions transport is the most stubborn one to bring down. We have to do this in order to shape a transport system for the future in which every time there is a problem the answer cannot be 'let's build a new road'.
"We know it does not work, it just induces more traffic. We will invest in our existing network, we will build new roads where there is a proper safety case for doing so but the era in which you thought that roads were the answer for every transport issue is over, it has to be in an era of climate change.
"If you think you can be serious about climate change on the one hand and think that un-travelled road building can go on into the future, for us those two things don't go together, which is why our road review sets out a new path for Wales into the future, investment in active travel, investment in public transport, investment in the road network, or existing road network where it makes sense to do so. But this is a mindset as well as practical actions and one in which we will have to bring our population along with us."
Mr Drakeford highlighted recent research that predicted the world would break a key temperature limit for the first time over the next few years. Researchers say there was now a 66% chance the earth will pass the 1.5C global warming threshold between now and 2027.
He added: "For those being born in Wales today, that is a crisis in their lifetime and we are determined to take that seriously."
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But there was an acceptance that the existing public transport network was not adequate to persuade enough people to move from car travel to buses and trains, or active travel like cycling.
North Wales minister Lesley Griffiths said: "205,000 people go across the border(Wales/England) everyday, predominantly that will be done by car, we need to reverse that, we need to make sure we have got that connectivity we referred to."
She highlighted how her own daughter struggled to find public transport links from Wrexham to her job in Manchester that fitted with her work schedule.
She added: "That is why we really need to work on those transport links, to make sure that people don't go in the car, the car is not their first choice of transport, and they look for lower carbon ways of getting between the two cities."
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: "We discussed today making a joint case for investment in rail infrastructure across the North West of England and North Wales because we are worried about Network Rail's funding window ahead where they are looking to be making cuts across the system and many much needed schemes will not proceed, schemes which would deliver the capacity to provide those faster journey times the minister has called for.
"The congestion of rail services in Manchester city centre is impacting Transport for Wales services here. The capacity is inadequate to deal with the demand of a growing economy here and in Wales as well.
"It is really important and this is the kind of thing that will come out of these meetings. We are now intending to develop a joint case to present to the UK Government to say there has to be, not a managed decline of our railways which is what it looks like at the moment, but the investment in infrastructure that will unlock extra capacity and faster services."
- ^ strengthening economic connections between the nations and regions. (www.dailypost.co.uk)
- ^ Flintshire (www.dailypost.co.uk)
- ^ after the roads review that also put a new Menai crossing in the slow lane. (www.dailypost.co.uk)
- ^ US nuclear boss says Wylfa site on Anglesey could host 16 of their small reactors (www.dailypost.co.uk)
- ^ Sign up for our twice daily North Wales Live newsletter here (www.dailypost.co.uk)
- ^ Wrexham (www.dailypost.co.uk)