Senedd honks horns over traffic congestion

(Title Image: Wales Online)

The Issue

A report at the end of last year showed traffic jams cost the Welsh economy £280million last year (though some, like John Dixon, have questioned how this figure was calculated).

Most of the serious problems are in and around Cardiff and Newport, but there were also hotspots around Swansea, Port Talbot and near Resolven.

The Motion (Amended Version)

The Senedd:

  • Notes the inability of the Welsh road network to cope with the current level of demand from motorists and regrets that Wales’ substandard roads are costing the Welsh economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
  • Believes that in order to better connect Wales’s communities, improve the quality of journeys for commuters and develop the Welsh economy, appropriate investment in all modes of transport, not just roads, is required.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to look at innovative ways of funding future road projects.

Key Points

Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery)
For (the motion): Welsh road projects are behind schedule.

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr)
For: Rural roads are a dangerous national disgrace.

  • Road spending in Wales has been cut by 42% in just four years.
  • There’ve been 723 accidents on the A487 over a period of 10 years and it’s a direct result of having a road network that “isn’t fit for the last century”.
  • Road deaths have started to increase after hitting their lowest ever levels in 2010; rural roads have 40% of the traffic but 62% of the fatalities – he doesn’t accept the problem is too much traffic.

Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East)
For: Delays are “not on”.

  • Praised the recent cut in Severn Crossing tolls as removing a barrier to investment.
  • The Brynglas Tunnels is the most congested piece of inner-city motorway in the UK outside London.
  • Disappointed at delays and increased costs of M4 Newport bypass and A465 dualling.

Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli)
Against: “Madness is doing the same thing over and over again….”

  • Felt “despair” because it’s the same arguments being put forward time and time again in the face of evidence; we’ll still be clamouring for more roads even if congestion gets to fantastical levels.
  • A primary cause of death on rural roads is speeding young drivers, not the roads themselves.
  • Long-term economic development is reliant on a number of factors including a healthy workforce free from the effects of air pollution.

Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West)
For: Personal experience.

  • It’s not just about roads but behavioural changes; the difference in air quality between mid-Wales and Swansea is “palpable”.
  • It takes her twice as long to get to work in Cardiff now as it did 7 years ago – buses are caught in the same congestion, while the train takes too long and is more expensive, has no choice but to drive.

David Rowlands AM (UKIP, South Wales East)
For: Personal experience.

  • To arrive in time for a 9 am Committee meeting he has to leave Griffithstown (Torfaen) at 6:30 am to avoid traffic jams.

Mark Reckless AM (Con, South Wales East)
For: It’s not binary ‘roads vs public transport’ issue.

  • You can still improve the environment by improving the road network; completing Rover Way in Cardiff would reduce congestion in the city centre.
  • Supports the creation of parkway railways stations in south east Wales to tie roads to rail.

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central)
Against: Same old arguments.

  • We have a different attitude to rail users than drivers: rail users see inflation-busting increases in fares but there’s barely a whimper compared to increasing the cost of driving.
  • Some form of “pay as you go” taxing/charging for driving is inevitable.

Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth)
For: Why are we waiting?

  • No suggestion the debate should downplay the role of other forms of transport.
  • Been waiting 40 years for a completion of the Cardiff Peripheral Distributor road.
  • Wales needs a new infrastructure procurement policy; only 23% of construction spending for Welsh Government funded infrastructure projects went to Welsh firms in 2016-17.

Welsh Government Response

Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South)

  • Wales spends £150million a year on maintenance and minor road improvements alone.
  • Several roads programmes have been completed on the A55, a new £200m Deeside road is proposed and a third Menai crossing is set to open in 2022. Work is moving forward on an A483 Llandeilo bypass.
  • He remains “utterly committed” to encouraging shifting from cars to public transport through metro schemes; he’s convinced we’ll “be in a better place (on congestion) in five years time”.
  • Finding finance for new transport schemes remains challenging due to Westminster austerity.


A surprise Welsh Government defeat. The First Minister didn’t vote, neither did Ken Skates. These motions and debates rarely carry much weight, but that’s still odd.

For information purposes, Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd) and Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) both voted in favour.

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