'Never say never' on big ticket road schemes says Transport minister but sets out what comes first

A55 roundabout removal project at Llanfairfechan was scrapped by the roads review -Credit:Welsh Government
A55 roundabout removal project at Llanfairfechan was scrapped by the roads review -Credit:Welsh Government

Wales's new transport minister says they need to "stress test" the roads review that led to a number of big ticket schemes in North Wales being scrapped. A group of transport and environment experts appointed by Welsh Government made recommendations over the future of dozens of proposed road projects in Wales.

It saw a number of casualties in the north - with the third Menai crossing, the Flintshire red route road, A55 roundabouts replacement, and Llanbedr bypass among those schemes put in the bin as they didn't meet with new climate targets. Those decisions last year were criticised by Ken Skates, then a backbencher, but now the transport minister in Vaughan Gething's new cabinet.

Speaking to North Wales Live he said they would look again at the recommendations but taking into consideration the strides made with electric vehicles and more sustainable construction methods. He said that he would consider putting the Menai crossing and other projects back on the table.

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But he added that there were smaller initial improvements to be made first to enhance resilience and potentially alleviate congestion. He said once these were done they could assess the results and determine if the larger projects were still required.

The minister said: "We need to test the roads review criteria for road building projects and junction improvements, to ensure it stands up to what is happening today in the construction and transport sectors and what is going to be happening very soon. Huge strides are being made in road construction that captures carbon in the race to net zero, the construction sector is steaming ahead on net zero, technology is changing, especially with the advent of electric and hydrogen vehicles.

"So I want to stress test the roads review and ensure those projects that were paused or stopped can be considered in the context of new and emerging technologies and work practices. I want to look at those junction improvements on trunk roads, some of the proposed improvements on the A55 in the context of our obligations to meet the climate emergency but also build better than before so we can alleviate congestion and improve air quality.

"Never say never on those (Menai crossing/red route in Flintshire ). Work in the meantime is pressing ahead on the recommendations of the North Wales Transport Commission for improving resilience on the Menai crossing and funding was secured recently to progress the early proposals for improving resilience on the crossing.

Cabinet secretary for north Wales and transport, Ken Skates MS -Credit:Welsh Government/Matt Horwood
Cabinet secretary for north Wales and transport, Ken Skates MS -Credit:Welsh Government/Matt Horwood

"Likewise, work is taking place on Aston Hill(A494) to look at alleviating congestion there and we will be progressing ahead with work on the Deeside crossing as well because that crossing is pretty old now. So we are ploughing ahead with that to make sure we build it as soon as we possibly can.

"Once we've interpreted the results of these various schemes we will be really well placed to determine the need for routes such as a third Menai crossing or a Flintshire corridor.

"But it has to be said even against the backdrop of incredible improvements in terms of road construction techniques and the potential to be able to deliver against net zero obligations, there is still a real issue with public finances."

He said the thing he has noticed "above all" since returning (Ken Skates was economy and transport minister until 2021) is that budgets are "really, really stretched". He blamed the short lived reign of former PM Liz Truss for "crashing the economy" - hitting government spending and also a loss of EU funding for Wales.

On a replacement project for the scrapped Llanbedr bypass, he added: "We have a multi-agency working group looking at what the community needs, that involves the council, the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales. They are looking at the options but we are progressing collectively to identify the delivery of a package of sustainable transport measures and safety improvements and ultimately a relief road around Llanbedr."

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