Tonhe number 21 Century is the two miracles of the nineteenth century. Thomas Telford’s suspension bridge spanning the narrow Menai Strait between Anglesey and mainland Wales was the largest suspension bridge of its kind when it was completed in 1826. When it is closed for maintenance between October and February, cars clog the larger Britannia Bridge, which is slightly to the west and opened in 1850 for both rail and road traffic. Regardless, the Britannia Bridge can get so congested during peak hours – so much so that in 2018 the Welsh government (then a Labor-led coalition) committed to building a third road bridge.
Last month, the Welsh government (now only Labor) accepted the panel’s recommendation to shelve the plan and 30 other road projects. The projects run afoul of climate-friendly, car-friendly transport policies for 2021 and are short on cash. Ministers want to see 10% fewer car miles traveled per person by 2030 than in 2019, and a shift to “sustainable modes” of travel – trains, buses, bikes and walking. The group said the shift to electric vehicles would help, but not enough. Scotland has an even more ambitious target of reducing total mileage by 20% by 2030; England has no such national target.Wales’ decision raises a simple question: when OK road?
The group concluded that there were only four acceptable answers: shifting travel to sustainable modes (for example, building separate bike lanes or bringing buses into train stations); reducing casualties; adapting to climate change; and gaining Numerous new developments in sustainable mobility. Furthermore, plans should not increase road capacity for cars, allow higher speeds and thus generate more emissions, or destroy sites of ecological value. Emissions from construction should be minimized. A third Menai crossing means a 10-12% increase in traffic by 2038, as well as the ruins of ancient woodland.
Some worry that limiting road construction will stifle economic development. Andrew Davies, Conservative leader of the Senedd or Welsh Assembly, said ministers had “put a ‘closed’ sign on the Offa Levee”. He added that the transportation system does not appear to be fit for the 21st century.Even some Labor politicians are concerned about the North East, around Wrexham and A55 at Industrial Deeside.
The economic case for adding apron is not always robust: The panel noted that the expected benefits of some proposed schemes outweigh the costs. But it also argues that, by nature, governments’ climate-friendly policies reduce their expected gains, much of which come from the value of time saved by faster journeys. These benefits are reduced if other modes of transportation are available and fewer cars are on the road.
That’s a big assumption. The Welsh Government plans to promote alternatives to cars. It intends to oversee tighter integration, from tickets to timetables, of different forms of public transport – something lacking in the UK. On-demand transit has been deployed in some areas.In south-east Wales, a committee led by economist and former treasurer Terry Burns made dozens of proposals in 2020, including new train stations and improved cycle lanes to divert traffic rice4 freeways. An implementation plan is in hand.
A similar body, also chaired by Lord Burns, has been established in North Wales. In a progress report in January, it pointed to the dominance of the car, from the rural north-west to the more urban north-east, where industrial areas were “designed with the vehicle in mind”. A “major shift in public transport services” is needed to reduce car use. Among other things, this means better buses in the northwest, with less frequent service even at peak times, and better rail service in the northeast. Some plans are already underway, but there is still much work to be done.
Lord Burns’ remit includes the Menai Strait, where a new but greener crossing could emerge. Rhun ap Iorwerth of the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, who represents Anglesey in Senedd, said he would prefer a “simpler” option anyway: adding a dual carriageway structure next to Britannia Bridge, which would provide cycle and footpaths.
Stronger ties to the mainland could be valuable for the proposed Freeport near Holyhead, the predecessor to Anglesey Aluminum, which closed permanently in 2013, and Wylfa’s putative modular nuclear reactor, which closed an atomic power station in 2015. The The island could invest: a poultry processing plant with more than 700 employees is closing. Mr ap Iorwerth said the purpose of the third intersection was not to ease congestion. “It’s about resilience. We don’t want to be isolated.” ■
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