Govt ditches major North Wales roadwork projects
The £300m Deeside ‘Red Route’ and £135m Third Menai Crossing were two traffic infrastructure projects that got the red light after a review of potential environmental impacts.
The Welsh government’s decision to cease the projects in their current state was made on the advice of an independent Roads Review Panel. The panel was tasked with examining whether or not projects would increase carbon emissions in the next 15 years. It convened after Wales froze new road projects in June 2021.
The £300m Deeside ‘Red Route’ was also known as the Flintshire Corridor Improvement project. It was meant to create a 13-kilometre long distance dual-carriageway for the A55/A494 to help alleviate traffic congestion. The Welsh government has already spent more than £4m on this scheme.
However, in reviewing the project, the Roads Review Panel found that increasing road capacity would actually make car travel more attractive. This would encourage more people to travel by car rather than public transport, thus increasing the amount of carbon dioxide emissions.
A new multi-modal corridor level programme for the A55, A494, and other SRN routes will replace the previous Flintshire Corridor Improvement project, according to the Welsh government.
The £135m Third Menai Crossing was to create a new, four-lane A55 bridge over the Menai Strait, connecting Anglesey and Gwynedd. The bridge would support pedestrians and cyclists by having better barriers between them and cars. The government has spent £2m on the project already.
The Roads Review Panel found that, like with the Red Route, having a third crossing would increase the number of cars on the road. The panel also noted that constructing the crossing would result in the loss of nearly 11 acres of woodland.
To replace the Third Menai Crossing scheme, the Welsh government has tasked the North Wales Transport Commission to help develop a more sustainable way to tackle the need for a way to cross the Menai Strait.
Wales also chose to halt the current Wrexham A483 Bypass Junctions 3 to 6 project, which would have improved the junctions to help alleviate traffic and enable future residential and employment developments.
Instead, this project will be replaced by a new multi-modal corridor improvements project. The government said it would work with Wrexham Council on the improvements, which will focus on reducing car use.
Roadwork projects that have been abandoned entirely include schemes for the Chester-Broughton Growth Corridor and A4/A483 Halton Roundabout.
Only one of the paused North Wales projects from 2021 was given the green light. This was the A487 Llwyn Mafon project, which seeks to improve the safety of this road through junction modifications, overtaking restrictions, and a lower speed limit.
Welsh deputy climate change minister Lee Waters said it was clear that Wales’s past approach to roadwork improvement was not helping stop climate change.
“Our approach for the last 70 years is not working,” he told the Senedd on Tuesday.
“As the review points out the by-pass that was demanded to relieve congestion often ends up leading to extra traffic, which in time brings further demands for extra lanes, wider junctions, and more roads,” Waters continued.
“Round and round we go, emitting more and more carbon as we do it and we will not get to net zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over.”
He did clarify that this did not mean Wales would stop investing in its 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…” he said.
“Of course, doing that in an age of austerity is very challenging,” Waters continued.
“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.”
You can see the full list of projects that have been halted in the Welsh government’s Programme for future road investment policy.
You can see explanations for the Road Review Panel’s recommendations in its report: The Future of Road Investment Wales. Justifications for the verdicts on individual projects in North Wales start on page 187 of the PDF.