(Title Image: Antony Maybury via National Assembly of Wales)
A few months ago, the Economy & Infrastructure Committee published a report on the state of Welsh roads – a summary of which you can read here. Yesterday, AMs debated the report’s contents.
The scale of the challenge
Chair of the Economy & Infrastructure Committee, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery) told the chamber that one of the most sobering aspects of the inquiry was how many issues raised in previous inquiries remain unresolved.
He was pleased some of the recommendations were accepted by the government:
“The committee made a number of recommendations that I’m pleased to say have been accepted, and these include exploring the potential of apps to provide real-time feedback on road conditions, improving the transparency and availability of highway asset management plans, creating a panel of experts to advise on best practice in road mending, and limiting the cases where it might be prudent to use the mutual investment model of public-private financing.”
– Committee Chair, Russell George AM
Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) said that while the scale of the challenge was daunting, when local authorities have a structured plan – as Rhondda Cynon Taf have via a £23.5million rolling programme of improvements – the number of roads needing attention falls.
Long-term planning such as the RCT example was key, as well as better communication with the public when roadworks fall behind schedule.
“….it is not enough to take comfort from the conclusion that the condition of Wales’s roads is not worse than those in other parts of the UK. Although this may be true, this issue is far too important for us to be complacent.”
– Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East)
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) said that while the Committee’s decision to run a competition to find the best pothole picture drew derision, the response to the inquiry showed just how much it touches lives. Many of the report’s conclusions – particularly on local government funding – were no surprise.
“The annual local authority road maintenance survey, which was drawn to my attention today, suggests that local authorities in Wales had spent 40 per cent less than local authorities in England on road maintenance in 2018. That’s not sustainable.”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM
Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) called for preventative measures such as improved drainage. Caroline Jones AM (Ind, South WalesWest) cited figures from the Asphalt Industry Alliance which suggest bringing Welsh roads up to scratch will take 24 years and £500million.
Work is continuously required
The Welsh Government are directly responsible for maintaining the trunk road network via two trunk road agencies covering southern and central & northern Wales respectively.
Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) said a harsh winter caused a rapid deterioration in road surfaces last year. Ongoing maintenance during the last financial year cost £146million. As for councils:
“An additional £32.5 million of specific grants were allocated in the last financial year to local authorities to improve the condition of the road network, and we’ll be providing a further £60 million specifically for highway refurbishment over the three years between 2018-19 and 2021-22. Decisions on local roads and the prioritisation of repairs and improvements are, rightly in my view, matters for local decision makers.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates
A new all-Wales transport strategy is due to be published sometime in 2019.