Deeside MP slams Welsh Government decision to put ‘Red Route’ on hold
Mark Tami has slammed the Welsh Government’s decision to put the ‘red route’ – a new road from the Flintshire Bridge to the A55 – on hold for a review.
All new road building projects in Wales are being put on hold whilst the Welsh Government carries out a review.
Ministers want to study the impact that road traffic has on climate change and all proposed schemes will be reviewed by an expert panel.
The move will impact the so called Deeside Red Route scheme, a new 13km two-lane dual carriageway linking the A55 at Northop with the A494 and A550 north of Deeside Parkway Junction via the Flintshire Bridge.
The red route would see traffic diverted from Aston Hill, where air pollution is high because of the number of lorries and cars.
The Labour MP for Alyn and Deeside said: “The red route is clearly the only option which is going to reduce air pollution in Aston, Higher Shotton, Queensferry and Sealand.”
“This has to be the Welsh Government’s number one priority here.”
“The impact of these fumes being spewed out next to homes, shops and schools is awful. Children’s health must come first.”
The project was being led by Ken Skates, but after he left the cabinet responsibility has now passed to Lee Waters MS.
Lee Waters said “Since 1990, Welsh emissions have fallen by 31%. But to reach our statutory target of net zero emissions by 2050, we need to do much more.”
“In the next 10 years, we are going to need to more than double all the cuts we have managed over the last 30 years if we are going to keep temperature rises within safe limits.”
“That means changes in all parts of our lives. Transport makes up some 17% of our total emissions and so must play its part.”
“We need a shift away from spending money on projects that encourage more people to drive, and spend more money on maintaining our roads and investing in real alternatives that give people a meaningful choice.”
Mark Tami is not convinced, he said: “Yes, we need to reduce carbon emissions, yes, that is going to involve trying to promote transport other than cars and lorries, but there isn’t some magic wand to make that happen; if there was, we’d have done it by now.”
“What the Welsh Government are promising is a long term solution, but the children along the Aston Hill can’t wait for the long term when they’re breathing dangerously polluted air now.”
“Building the red route doesn’t mean junking carbon cut targets at all, but it does mean taking action now to protect children’s health and I have yet to hear anyone argue convincingly that there is something more important than that.”
“The message from me is clear – I back the red route and the Welsh Government needs to turn around and make it happen, fast.”
Alyn and Deeside Senedd Member Jack Sargeant has also raised his concerns about the delay with the Minister in the chamber in Cardiff.
He said: “Deputy Minister, you will know that the content of this statement will have a big impact on residents in my constituency, particularly children, who are significantly impacted by the air pollution that this investment was supposed to address.”
“Can I ask you, Minister, how confident are you that this will be addressed by the outcome of the review and that any future measures will have a measurable impact on air pollution on roads in Alyn and Deeside?”
Lee Waters replied: “In terms of air quality, this is one of the issues that this Senedd is going to have to face: what goes into a clean air Bill, how ambitious and bold we want to be about that, what package of measures improves air quality.”
“There is a vision for simply building bypasses all across Wales, to shift the problem from one place to another. I’m not convinced entirely that that deals with the issue of air quality.”
“Clearly, as tailpipe emissions fall away, as cars are increasingly electrified, that’s going to have a significant impact on local air quality within town centres, and behaviour change is a very important part of it, too.”
“If we can achieve modal shift, we can reduce traffic, we can reduce pollution and we can reduce congestion.”
“We can do that quicker than we can through heavy engineering interventions, and we can do it cheaper, and reproduce other benefits too. ”
So, I think there is a complex mixture. I think the go-to default option that too often has been had, that air quality is best dealt with by a road, I think needs a more granular look, and that’s one of the things I hope the review will deal with, because I completely recognise the point, and as I said, I’m familiar with it in my own constituency.”
“Cars pollute. They kill. They produce air that damages the health of people, and we need to tackle it. The best way to tackle it—I think that’s something that we’re still figuring out, and that’s what I hope the review will help us with.”
Jack Sargeant has now also sought an urgent meeting with the minister to challenge the delay to the route.
Delyn’s Senedd Member Hannah Blythyn, welcomed the pause on new road building schemes in Wales.
Ms Blythyn recently made a ‘firm commitment’ to oppose the proposals, she does not believe that they are the “most appropriate solutions” to the problems being faced in her Delyn constituency.
She has raised concerns about the proposals over the past few years and called on the Welsh Government to extend the consultation exercise wider to ensure Delyn constituents’ concerns were heard.
Speaking after last weeks statement the Delyn MS said: “Since these proposals were first introduced I have worked with constituents to raise their concerns, and to push colleagues in the Welsh Government to consider more appropriate solutions to transport problems faced in our corner of the country.”
Work on the £300m Deeside ‘Red Route’ was expected to begin in 2024 but the impact of the Covid pandemic and the long term changes in travel patterns should be fully assessed, a Senedd Petitions Committee said earlier this year.
The Red Route was chosen ahead of an alternative Blue Route scheme following a 12-week consultation in 2017.
The Blue Route plan would have seen improvements along the A494 Aston Hill and the Ewloe interchange with the A55 without the need for a new road being built.
A petition was raised in early 2019 by local residents in the Northop and Flint areas concerned about the impact on traffic around their communities and the poor consultation of the scheme, it attracted 1,500 signatures.
A committee – made up of cross-party Senedd members – published a number of recommendations on the back of the petition.
It called for detailed design work on the scheme to be halted until the effects of the Covid-19 “both in terms of its affordability and due to the potential for there to be long-term changes to travel patterns and behaviour.”
Professor Tom Rippeth, chair of STAMP, the group leading the opposition to the Red Route has welcomed the decision by the Welsh government, “in light of the need to substantially reduce Greenhouse gas emissions over the coming few years.”
“This review comes on top of a recent 18-month petitions committee investigation which revealed that whilst the costs of the Red Route continue to spiral the basis for the selection of this road scheme was weak.”
“The basis is further undermined by the likely traffic changes post COVID as more people are encouraged to continue to work from home.”
“The committee also found no evidence the Red Route would improve the holiday traffic situation.” Added Prof Rippeth.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, Natasha Asghar MS said the decision to freeze road building projects in Wales could “prove a significant blow for our recovery.”
She said: “Many roads across Wales are not fit for purpose and have had a damaging impact on our economic fortunes, environment and public safety.”
“Regular traffic jams deter investment and have contributed to Wales having some of the worst air quality in the UK.”
“Ministers seem hell-bent on letting our roads deteriorate and forcing everyone onto public transport, despite major doubts over the ability of the network in Wales to cope after years of poor management and under-investment by Labour.”
“Welsh workers and businesses urgently require more information about the scope of the review and the Welsh Labour Government’s long-term intentions for our transport infrastructure.”