Senedd Bites #42: Third Menai Crossing route chosen & more

(Title Image: North Wales Chronicle)

Third Menai Crossing route is chosen

The Welsh Government have chosen the “purple route” as a new crossing of the Menai Strait between Anglesey and Gwynedd. The route will involve the construction of a completely new 4-lane bridge adjacent to the current Britannia Bridge, which would be converted for use by local traffic.

The new bridge is expected to cost £135million and could be completed by 2023.

The First Minister said: “Based on the appraisal undertaken on the options, the Purple Option performs best and would be vital in improving journey times, strengthening the A55’s resilience, and ensuring safer travel across the Menai Strait.” He added that he hoped the new bridge would be as “iconic” a design as the original.

5G “manel” criticised

Equalities organisations and the director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, Auriol Miller, have criticised a decision by Innovation Point – a Newport-based digital growth organisation – to appoint an all-male advisory panel for the development of next-generation 5G mobile technology.

The organisation defended the appointments by saying it was “the right team”, but Chwarae Teg’s Cerys Furlong said “The digital software and equipment we create now will have a significant impact on people’s everyday lives in the future, therefore it must be designed with everyone in mind.

“That’s why it’s crucial that any expert panel or advisory group is diverse, and represents the people who will ultimately be affected by its decisions.”

FM “optimistic” about new rail franchise

The First Minister said he was “optimistic” that the new Transport for Wales rail franchise for Wales & Borders will be regarded as one of the best rail operators in the UK over the next 15 years.

He made the comments at a launch event at Pontypridd station on October 15th. He said, “In the next five years, people will see the ramp up of services but it won’t happen overnight. There’s room for optimism because for 15 years there was no sign of anything changing.”

The new service was hit with teething problems caused by Storm Callum and the lack of Welsh language facilities on the website and app.

Subsidy for north-south air link increases

The Anglesey-Cardiff public service air link, currently operated by Eastern Airways, is running at a cost of £158-per-passenger according to figures released to the Public Accounts Committee. This is an increase of £23 on the most recent figures, which the Welsh Government put down to a sudden change in contract.

Passenger numbers increased by 38% during 2017-18, but Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) said: “These excessive figures merit further investigation by the Public Accounts Committee. Not only has the cost to the public purse been growing but also there are questions around the degree of transparency in how the Welsh Government reported these figures to members of the committee.”

Controversial NRW interim chief appointment

There was criticism of the appointment of Sir David Henshaw as the interim director of the troubled Natural Resources Wales body for 12 months.

He had previously been chief executive of Liverpool Council and has earned a reputation as a “fixer” in troubled health boards – though using controversial methods which promoted 22 MPs to write a letter saying they couldn’t work with him. However, his lack of experience in land management was picked up by BBC wildlife presenter and conservationist, Iolo Williams, as well as Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales).

Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham) sais he would bring “significant experience” to the role.

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