Posted: Thu 29th Feb 2024

Calls for transport improvements after “decades of neglect and mismanagement” in north Wales

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

Senedd members debated the future of transport in north Wales, with concerns raised about “decades of neglect and mismanagement”.

Lee Waters, the deputy minister for climate change, outlined the Welsh Government’s response to the 60 recommendations of the North Wales Transport Commission’s report.

He said Lord Burns was asked to chair the commission on north Wales to bring the same rigour and challenge he showed in his study of transport in south-east Wales.

Mr Waters urged UK ministers to similarly accept the commission’s recommendations as he called for greater investment in rail infrastructure, which Westminster is responsible for.

While he welcomed the UK Government’s announcement of funding to electrify the north Wales main line, Mr Waters warned that the decision was made unilaterally.

“If there are billions of pounds available then Wales should decide how best to spend it,” he said, suggesting other schemes could have delivered benefits sooner.

On buses, Mr Waters agreed with the commission that the deregulated bus network does not serve north Wales well and said a bill to re-regulate services will be introduced in September.

‘Neglect’

Natasha Asghar, the Conservatives’ shadow minister, said urgent improvements are needed after more than two decades of neglect and mismanagement.

She warned that north Wales has been forgotten about “time and time again”, raising concerns about the deputy minister’s “deep-rooted hatred” for motorists.

Ms Asghar questioned the Welsh Government’s ability to deliver on its public transport ambitions and whether TfW is up to the task.

Cautioning that plans for bus franchising will not be a silver bullet, the MS backed the commission’s calls for a network of coastal buses with two to four services an hour.

She highlighted that the UK Government is investing £1bn in electrifying the main line.

Mr Waters disputed the Conservatives’ claim that north Wales has been forgotten about and the depiction of TfW as a failing organisation.

‘Empty words’

Delyth Jewell said transport in the north must improve if the Welsh Government is to have any hope of convincing people to use alternatives to the car.

She criticised the UK Government, arguing Wales is owed £4bn from the HS2 project, and describing the Tories’ “get Wales moving” slogan as empty words without investment.

Pointing out that many rely on cars, Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister raised concerns about a lack of charging infrastructure to aid in the transition to electric vehicles.

Ms Jewell called for more funding for buses, raising the example of the cancelled T19 service leading to lost connections for entire communities in Gwynedd and Conwy.

She said: “It remains a concern for many people that so little funding is available for the bus industry at a time when hundreds of millions are being invested in TfW.”

Red route

Jack Sargeant, a Labour backbencher, raised concerns about the problems presented by congestion on Aston Hill in his Alyn and Deeside constituency.

“The congestion means longer journey times and poorer air quality,” he said.

“I supported the red route because it would improve the air quality for these residents, as I understood it. If this route isn’t happening, people have to be offered usable alternatives.”

Mr Waters stressed that the evidence is clear: “You can’t build your way out of congestion.”

The deputy minister said there was no money to build the red route, warning: “There simply aren’t several hundreds of millions of pounds waiting to be spent on alternative schemes.”

He said a new railway station at Deeside industrial estate is among the report’s key calls.

Menai crossings

Rhun ap Iorwerth focused on Anglesey and the Menai crossings, criticising the decision to cancel plans for a new crossing or the dualling of the Britannia crossing.

The Plaid Cymru leader, who represents Ynys Môn, said: “I am still convinced that that will be the necessary investment, ultimately, in order to ensure long-term resilience.

“The Menai bridge is 200 years old in two years’ time, and I think we will need to strengthen the crossings for the future.”

Mr Waters pointed to the next steps set out in the annex to the report, such as measures to mitigate wind to reduce how often the bridge is closed and appraising a three-lane option.

He said the commission and a recent roads review did not find a strong enough case to justify spending about £400m on a new crossing.

‘Dangerous’

Pointing out that the report makes no reference to the A470, Janet Finch-Saunders raised concerns about dangerous stretches between Glan Conwy and Maenan and Llanrwst.

Mr Waters told the Aberconwy MS that ministers will first look to make small changes, such as reducing speed limits, rather than expensive carbon-intensive infrastructure upgrades.

Darren Millar, a Conservative, who represents Clwyd West, called for concessionary travel cards to work on the north Wales railway line at off-peak times.

During the statement on February 27, Mr Waters responded by saying he had asked TfW to look at a more flexible Ryanair- or Megabus-style approach to pricing.

He said expensive tickets often make rail unaffordable for families and it can be cheaper to travel by car, which goes against ministers’ objectives.

By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter



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