All major rroad building projects in Wales have been cancelled due to environmental concerns.
The proposed third Menai bridge, as well as the contentious “red road building” through Flintshire, will not be built.
The move is part of the Welsh government’s National Transport Plan and comes after a year of consideration.
Environmentalists praised the move as “world-leading and courageous,” while some in the construction industry cautioned that it could jeopardise jobs.
It comes as the Welsh government is being accused of jeopardising bus services after a senior minister stated that industry subsidies have not to be approved beyond the summer.
According to the Welsh government, all future road building must meet tight requirements, including not increasing carbon emissions, not increasing the number of automobiles on the road, not leading to faster speeds and higher emissions, and not negatively impacting the environment.
The decision disappointed Flintshire council leader Ian Roberts.
“The council is worried that no alternative alternatives are currently being proposed, as well as no financing for much-needed improvements to local transportation infrastructure,” he stated.
Ken Skates recently stated that Welsh government decisions on road building in the north should be made locally.
The Clwyd South Senedd member and former Welsh transport minister stated that clarity on how to improve transportation in north Wales was required.
“I am a staunch believer that choices about road building, buses, trains, and active transportation are best addressed at the regional level,” he stated.
“The moment has come to devolve to the north, starting with our major roadways.”
A second Labour Senedd member questioned his party’s decision.
Blaenau Gwent’s Alun Davies called for “more joined up thinking” by ministers.
“If we’re going to pull things away from people in terms of distance, we have to be able to make the public transportation options available for them to reach those services,” he added.
The strategy of the last 70 years, according to Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters, was not working.
“We will not get net zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over,” he explained.
“None of this is easy, but the alternative is more worse.”
To achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the Welsh government must “be prepared to follow through,” he said.
The deputy minister insisted new roads will be built in future, but said the government was “raising the bar” to ensure any new road building was “the proper response to transport concerns”.
The Welsh government announced in 2021 that it will conduct a road review.
An expert group chaired by transportation consultant Lynn Sloman evaluated 59 road projects and gave recommendations on which projects should be pursued, which should be abandoned, and which should be reconsidered in a different form.
15 of these will proceed, but the remainder have been rejected or will be changed.
However, in order to be built, this and all future projects must meet a new set of stringent criteria.
The Welsh government will not accept new projects unless they cut carbon emissions, promote public transportation, walking and cycling, improve safety through small-scale changes, and assist the Welsh government in adapting to the effects of climate change.
They must also provide links to jobs and economic activity in a way that encourages people to use public transportation, walk, and cycle.
The contentious Red Route in Flintshire will not be completed as planned. Instead, the A494 at Aston Hill will be improved.
Plans for a third Menai Bridge between Anglesey and the mainland have been superseded by a review of how to alleviate congestion and the durability of existing bridges, as well as encourage people to utilise alternative modes of transportation.
Improvements on the A483 near Wrexham will also be abandoned, and a study will be convened to evaluate a “exemplar” project to minimise car usage.
Which projects will be carried out?
Only minor road upgrades will be carried out.
The A4042 corridor from Pontypool to the M4 through Torfaen, which had been halted during this study, is the greatest of these.
Improvements to the A487 between Fishguard and Cardigan, as well as the A4076 at Haverfordwest, will also take place.
What was the reaction?
Environmentalists have praised the announcement, calling it “world-leading”.
“We saw this assessment as a test of the Welsh government,” said Haf Elgar of Friends of the Earth Cymru.
“Were they going to be brave enough to walk the walk, not simply to proclaim ‘we’ve got a climate emergency’ but to actually take those painful decisions and to make meaningful changes to our future in Wales?
“I believe we’re seeing that today.
“I believe this is a new beginning in which meaningful improvements will be made to propel us towards a greener and healthier future.”
However, the construction industry is concerned about job losses and is urging the Welsh government to provide certainty on future infrastructure expenditures.