As always, transport is high on my agenda and with the Welsh Government scrapping some of the most high-profile road building schemes in Wales following the release of their Road Review. Again, Welsh Labour Government are slowing Wales down.
For Wrexham, this Road Review announcement means that the A483 Wrexham Bypass Junctions 3 to 6 scheme will not proceed as the case for change is not ‘well-aligned’ with the Welsh Government’s aim to reduce car mileage. Whilst the Welsh Government say that the replacement plan will include ‘a multi modal residential and employment development with lower levels of car use’. The problem here is that if Welsh Government want to reduce the number of cars, they need to invest in better public transport. We know, in Wrexham public transport is not reliable, regular, or feasible with people’s daily commutes. Answers such as ‘buses never turn up’ and ‘trains are regularly cancelled last minute’ plagued my transport survey.
This begs the question, where is the Welsh Government’s dedication to the hardworking people of North Wales? How are people of Wrexham meant to trust that they will get to work on time and not have to seek alternative routes due to last minute cancellations? Only last Thursday, the Welsh Government announced that many Welsh bus routes could be scrapped because of funding issues. The Welsh Government’s net-zero plan for increased use of public transport services is fundamentally flawed: slashing bus services only forces people to rely more on their cars.
The Welsh Government continually argue that there is not enough money from the UK Government to complete all of the Road Review projects. The key here is that the Welsh Government has the funding available and can choose when and how to spend this money. The UK Government gives the Welsh Government £18bn annually to fund services in Wales and in fact, this year the Chancellor committed an extra £1.2bn. This is the biggest funding settlement since devolution began in Wales.
This argument, based on nothing more than deflection and their own mismanagement of taxpayer’s money on nonsensical transport policies, is nothing new. Over the years, the Welsh Government has continued to prioritise spending hard-earned taxpayer’s money in irresponsible ways; £52million for Cardiff airport in 2013, £32million on an unwanted policy bringing speed limits on residential roads from 30mph to 20mph and £3million on fitting speed cameras on five stretches of major Welsh roads, including the A483 in Wrexham. The one thing all of these policies have in common is that the benefits do not outweigh the cost, in fact it all goes downhill. Cardiff airport is a bottomless pit for taxpayers’ money now being estimated worth £15m after writing off a series of debts and the 20mph policy projecting to cost the Welsh economy billions.
Time and time again the Welsh Government fails to prioritise spending money where it really matters. Whilst they continue to subsidise loss-making at Cardiff airport, North Wales consistently misses out as there are ‘no funds left’. My constituents consistently face congestion on the A483 and now the much-needed bypass on the A483 is not going ahead. Even just from the three above-mentioned policies, that £87million could’ve been spent improving transport in North Wales. North Wales constantly loses out to South Wales, with Cardiff supporting its Welsh Labour heartlands.
Once again, the list of unnecessary and expensive spending goes on and we haven’t even touched on the Welsh Government’s vanity project of calling to introduce an extra 30 Senedd members, costing the taxpayer an extra £12m per year! We certainly do not need more layers of expensive government and bureaucracy. The argument that the Welsh Government’s transport agenda is falling short because of the UK Government short-changing them is weak and frankly untrue. In reality, the Welsh Government need to take leaf out of the UK Government’s book and implement a pro-worker, pro-growth and pro-business transport infrastructure that matches the needs of our growing city. At a time when Wrexham is having opportunities thrown at us left, right and centre, even trading and export opportunities in the United States and Canada, we need to capitalise on this newfound platform.
My transport survey continues and to have your say, follow this link: https://www.sarahatherton.org.uk/transport-survey.