News & Events

February 2023

The Future of Road Investment in Wales – February 2023

Yesterday we heard news from the long-awaited Welsh Government Roads Review Panel.

The independent study undertaken by an expert panel, led by transport consultant Dr Lynn Sloman (MBE), assessed 59 road projects across Wales. The study provides recommendations on which projects to progress with, which to stop and which to reassess and consider in a different form and will be used to inform the National Transport Delivery Plan (NTDP).

In presenting the findings of the study, the deputy Climate Change minister suggested that current policy guidance had been applied to a number of historic road building schemes which had been devised following 90’s transport planning principles and philosophies. As such the majority were at odds with the legal obligations in reaching net-zero targets.

The study marks a bold commitment to a range of transport and planning policy which whilst adopted throughout the last decade, has yet to materially change the mindset of transport infrastructure delivery in Wales.

It has been suggested that the financial savings from not progressing road schemes should be directed to schemes that deliver in accordance with the aims of Llwybr Newydd: the Wales Transport Strategy 2021, Net Zero Wales and the Programme for Government.

“We will not get to net zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over,” Deputy Minister Lee Waters MS.

It was refreshing to hear at the launch of the study, a lot of talk about the effect that induced demand has on road infrastructure, put simply Deputy Minister Lee Waters suggested that the approach taken over the last 70 years is not working.

The report makes 594 references to carbon which gives you an idea of the weight that is now being given to reducing carbon emissions within the study. Road building simply cannot continue whilst seeking to achieve climate change objectives.

This should change how developments are assessed going forward in Wales, with the historic focus on traffic capacity replaced by emphasis on accessibility, active travel connectivity, and carbon reduction, all elements which Vectos now include in assessments of all large scale sites.

In many ways, the approach taken by Welsh Government simply reflects much of the current policy direction, but it has certainly set a clear path for enhanced sustainable transport delivery across Wales. The view that building new roads and bigger junctions to alleviate traffic congestion simply results in induced traffic demand, is one that Vectos has been advocating for the last 10 years. It was successfully applied in key Local Development Plan site delivery such as Churchlands and Plasdwr located in north east Cardiff and to the west of Cardiff respectively. It is now pleasing to see our government advocating the same approach to future development.

Vital to the success of this approach will be how funding is directed to public transport and active travel schemes. Substantial progress has been made on the delivery of the South Wales Metro but it is in many rural communities across Wales where car reliance is highest that the greatest challenges exist to develop effective public transport services. A step change level in public transport and active travel investment will be needed and to be sustained over the coming years.