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Wales to delay or scrap all roadbuilding projects

The Welsh government has announced plans to put roadbuilding projects on hold and even scrap some to align with its commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

An independent review into the government’s transport strategy, which delayed 59 roadbuilding projects since June 2021 as it took place, was published yesterday.

The Welsh government has agreed to some of the key findings of the review and will only consider investment in projects that reduce carbon emissions or support a shift to public transport.

Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, called the new Roads Policy Statement a ‘major step forward’ for the Senedd. He added: ‘Let me be very clear at the outset, we will still invest in roads. In fact, we are building new roads as I speak – 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.’

Waters also highlighted the financial challenges facing the Welsh government at the moment, as many regions have restricted budgets due to inflation pressures.

He said: ‘Of course, doing that in an age of austerity is very challenging. Not only are we not getting our share of HS2 investment, but the UK Government is pushing many bus services over a cliff edge, as well as slashing our capital investment budgets.

‘Even if we’d wanted to keep progressing all the road schemes in the pipeline we just do not have the money to do so. Our capital budget will be 8% lower next year in real terms as a result of the UK Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure.

‘With fewer resources it becomes even more important to prioritise and the Roads Review helps us to do that.’

Road projects will also need to improve safety through small-scale changes, help achieve climate adaptation and boost jobs and the local economy through the use of public transport and active travel to be accepted.

Nine schemes have been scrapped in total, while 15 will be replaced with new projects which build on these new priorities.

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the news, with Haf Elgar, Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, saying: ‘This world-leading report 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 some critics have questioned what people should do when public transport services are unavailable and expressed concerns for how this could affect the economy.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Asghar MS 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.’

Photo by Jonny Gios

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