Union Connectivity Review proposes major overhaul to Welsh transport connections including A55
Transport links between North Wales and England are among the recommendations of a UK government transport review.
The review was launched in October 2020, led by Sir Peter Hendy CBE, to undertake how a detailed review of the quality and availability of transport infrastructure across the UK can support economic growth and quality of life.
The UK Government has published the final report of the Union Connectivity Review today.
Research carried out for the report has highlighted how important travel across the border between Wales and England is, with a large number of people travelling daily for work, services and leisure.
The UK Government has said it is “committed to ensuring that transport links in this region continue to serve everyone who needs them.”
Sir Peter’s proposals for Wales include the UK Government working with the Welsh Government to review the route connecting North Wales to the North West of England, which is a key link for both communities and businesses.
He suggests that a package of improvements focused on this route should focus on better connectivity with HS2 and major electrification schemes, upgrades to the A55, the M53, M56, and improving onward travel to and from the island of Ireland, in a major boost for union connectivity.
“Stakeholders in North Wales regard capacity and journey times on the A55 as a significant barrier to growth, and slow rail journey speeds and low service frequencies mean that rail is not seen as a viable alternative.” Sir Peter’s report states.
It goes on to say: “On the road network, there are high levels of traffic on the A55, M56, M6 and M60, with significant seasonal congestion on the A55.”
“A recent study found that the A55 becomes vulnerable and overstressed during incidents or significant road work events and lacks viable diversion routes.”
“Scheduling of ferries at Holyhead means that HGV traffic can come in waves, which can increase the chance of severe delays on the road.”
“There are several different infrastructure schemes in development to support improved resilience and capacity on the A55, although the recent announcement by the Welsh Government of a moratorium on new road schemes pending further environmental reviews may affect the delivery of these.”
The report suggests improvements to line speeds and capacity on the North Wales Main Line and rail infrastructure in the Cheshire/Mersey area would enable faster journey times and capacity to support enhanced cross border economic links which will facilitate increased growth, jobs, housing and social cohesion.
“The North Wales Main Line also needs to be better connected with HS2 at Crewe so that North Wales can take advantage of the benefits of HS2. Stakeholders have also identified the potential benefits of electrification of the North Wales Main Line, including reduced carbon emissions which would support the UK’s climate change-related commitments.”
“Transport for Wales and Growth Track 360 have been developing plans for a North Wales Metro and improvements to the North Wales Main Line.”
“This includes line speed and capacity upgrades, upgrades between Wrexham, Bidston and Liverpool, enhancements to Chester Station, a Crewe Hub interface to maximise the benefits of HS2 and service amendments.”
“Noting that several different infrastructure schemes are already in development on this corridor and that, to date, these have been developed independently from each other, a more multi-modal approach would be desirable, to decide the best way to address the strategic needs of this corridor.” The report states.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We must strengthen the rail and road links across Wales if we are to truly level up the UK– enhancing the connectivity of Welsh towns and cities and bringing communities closer together.
“We will now reflect on Sir Peter Hendy’s review, and through close working with the Welsh Government, boost key transport connections that will deliver for the people and businesses of Wales and more evenly distribute opportunity and prosperity.”
Independent Chair of the Union Connectivity Review, Sir Peter Hendy, said: “My recommendations provide comprehensive, achievable and clear plans forward to better connect the whole of the United Kingdom, leading to more growth, jobs, housing and social cohesion.
“I welcome the enthusiasm shown by the Prime Minister and the Government to my final report and I look forward to their formal response to my recommendations, which aim to spread opportunity and prosperity right across the United Kingdom.
The UK Government said it will now “carefully consider the Union Connectivity Review in detail. It has also invited the Welsh Government to work closely to identify the solutions which work best for the people of Wales and the rest of the UK, and make tangible and meaningful progress as swiftly as possible.”
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said: “Improving road, rail and other transport infrastructure so it is fit for the future is crucial to economic growth across Wales. Thousands of people travel between Wales and England every day so it is vital that we better connect our communities and increase opportunities for businesses and travellers.
“Speeding up rail services, upgrading roads and boosting connectivity all form part of our plans to level up communities, strengthen the United Kingdom and promote the creation of new jobs in every part of Wales and the UK.”
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