April 16, 2024

Senior Labour MP blasts Welsh Government decision to axe £100M Flintshire road plan

Roads protest, pictured from left, are Askar Sheibani, Chief Executive of Comtek Network Systems and chairman of Deeside Business Forum; Flintshire County Councillor Ron Davies ; Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami, Flintshire County Councillor Dave Evans and Shotton Town Council Chair Gary Cooper. Picture Mandy Jones

A senior Labour MP has launched a scathing attack on the Welsh Government’s controversial decision to axe a £100 million new road project in Flintshire.

The planned new dual carriageway, the so-called Red Route, linking major routes from the North West of England with the A55 North Wales Expressway, was one of the victims of the roads review announced by the Welsh Government’s Deputy Transport Minister Lee Waters.

Now the decision has drawn fire from Mark Tami, MP for Alyn and Deeside and a Privy Councillor, who has accused the Welsh Government of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds and putting a sticking plaster on the problems of pollution.

The new dual carriageway, linking the A494 from Merseyside and the A550, bringing traffic from the M56, with the A55 at Northop, would have reduced traffic by over 50 per cent on the notorious Aston Hill pinch-point where high levels of exhaust pollution have forced the authorities to reduce the speed limit to 50mph.

Mr Tami slammed the Welsh Government and said: “This is a massive disappointment and not only for business but my primary concern is for the air and noise pollution for people who live here.

“These pollution levels are only going to get worse and while building new roads is never going to be easy, we have had years and years of reviews and we finally came up with the Red Route and that should have been carried through.

“We now have another review looking at God knows what so I hope that sense will prevail but even if it does, years and years have been wasted along with hundreds of millions of pounds.

“When traffic on this road backs up drivers start going on rat runs through the towns and that has safety implications so we need to continue to press the Welsh Government for a change.

“The fact is their roads review has implications for large areas of Wales and people are now starting to wake up to the fact that it’s really a no new roads policy.

“They can talk about a commitment to public transport but we have one of the highest travel to work by car rates in the UK and that’s because public transport just isn’t there.

“We want the Welsh Government to look again at their decision because I believe it’s the wrong decision – these things need to be thought through for the long term because decisions like dropping the speed limit to 50mph are just putting a sticking plaster on the problem.”

The then Minister for Transport, Ken Skates, AM for Clwyd South, had announced the Welsh Government’s commitment to the Red Route in 2017 but in February Mr Waters reversed that decision following the findings of an expert review panel which assessed 59 road projects across Wales.

Only 15 will now go ahead as originally planned, all in South Wales, with the rest, including all those in North Wales, rejected or substantially revised.

The decision incensed local Labour councillors with Gary Cooper, the Chair of Shotton Town Council, saying: “Flintshire County Council have done a test on the levels of air and noise pollution here and say they are within the legal limits but that’s unacceptable – who sets these boundaries?”

He was backed by the Labour county councillors for Shotton East and Higher, David Evans and Ron Davies with Councillor Davies saying: “They know there is pollution here – at one time they wanted to build a nine-metre wall along this road.

“There’s massive congestion. There are 65,000 vehicles a day using this road and there must be more at weekends.

“Welcome to Wales.”

Councillor Evans, who used to live in one of the houses along Aston Hill, said: “It’s disappointing that the Welsh Government has said no to the Red Route.

“Their road review killed off a lot of roads throughout Wales but I think that we know best in North Wales what’s good for us.

“If they want to get people on public transport they’ve got to put in place proper rail and bus services and we haven’t got them.”

Mr Tami and the councillors were at the side of the A494 at Aston Hill to meet local businessman Askar Sheibani, Chief Executive of Comtek Network Systems and chairman of Deeside Business Forum, who has launched a campaign against the Welsh Government’s roads review.

He said the decision to axe major road schemes in North Wales could hamstring the area’s manufacturing and tourism industries and deal a blow to its aim to become a major source of cheap, green energy for the country.

He has called for a North Wales Metro Mayor who could represent the region’s interests and he said: “The representatives of the local community have heard a huge number of complaints about this decision to axe road schemes from the people they represent.

“They know about the health and pollution issues and the stress it causes. They’ve heard it first hand from the people who live here for many, many years, for decades.

“They’re sharing the residents’ concerns but this Welsh Government decision is also causing huge economic damage to tourism and local business.

“There was a solution to it, the Red Route, which the Welsh Government had committed to but now a deputy minister is scrapping it, completely out of the blue, so what does that do to their reputation when it comes to future announcements and promises.”

In relation to the A494 Aston Hill, the Welsh Government said: “We will work with the Local Authority to develop options to improve air quality and support modal shift and resilience, aligned to the future road building tests.

A spokesperson added: “It is not the case all planned road schemes in North Wales have been scrapped. In fact, most of the schemes going forward across the whole of the country are in North Wales and Mid Wales.

“If we’re going to reach NetZero by 2050, we must shift to looking after the roads we already have and investing in more sustainable transport. The North Wales Transport commission has been established to speak to stakeholders in the region to develop sustainable modes of transport.

“We already have a dedicated Minister for North Wales in the Cabinet who champions the north and its many strengths and opportunities.

“The Minister chairs the Cabinet sub-committee for North Wales which meets every quarter and includes all Cabinet Ministers and Local Authority leaders.

“It is a valued forum which allows the challenges and opportunities facing the region to be raised and discussed at the very highest level.

“Our Programme for Government includes a number of commitments specifically for North Wales, including the establishing of a North Wales Medical School and progress with the North Wales Metro.

“Only last week we announced Anglesey Freeport will be one of Wales’ first freeports developing the Energy Island Programme (EIP) focusing on marine energy technology testing on the seabed (tidal and wind).”

A petition, created by Askar Sheibani, calling on the Welsh Government to devolve responsibilities and budgets for trunk roads in North Wales to North Wales is currently circulating – to sign go to https://petitions.senedd.wales/petitions/245371