Posted: Tue 14th Feb 2023

Welsh Government scraps £300m Flintshire ‘Red Route’ scheme

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Feb 14th, 2023

After much anticipation, the Welsh Government has announced its decision to scrap the Red Route.

The £300m scheme would have seen the construction of a new eight-mile dual carriageway, linking the A55 at Northop with the A494 and A550 north of Deeside Parkway Junction via the Flintshire Bridge.

This decision comes as part of a wider review of road schemes, carried out by the Welsh Government, which has been tasked with assessing more than 50 road building projects.

The Red Route had been a contentious issue in Flintshire, with local politicians, residents and environmentalists clashing over the proposed construction.

Aston Hill

Supporters of the Red Route had argued that it was necessary to ease congestion and improve air quality on the A494 Aston Hill, while opponents had raised concerns about the negative impact on the environment and the health of local residents.

Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters has said that some improvements will be made to the A494 at Aston Hill calling it a “separate case,”  “we will look with local authorities to develop solutions that will bring some short-term benefits to that area.”

The specific details of these improvements have not been disclosed, but according to Flintshire County Council’s Leader, Councillor Ian Roberts, the Council is concerned that there are no alternative solutions being put forward and no funding for much-needed improvement works to local transport infrastructure.

As well as the Red Route four studies of sections of the A55 and A494 that were at an early stage had not yet identified preferred schemes.

These were the A55/A494 Network Resilience Study; A55 Junctions 23 to 24 Corridor Study; A55 Junctions 29 to 33b Corridor Study; and A55 J33b Ewloe to A494 Queensferry Interchange Corridor Study.

The Panel considered that the studies themselves should not proceed because “they were not an efficient way to identify high priority schemes.”

The panel suggests that certain parts of the previous studies are in line with Welsh Government goals around sustainable transport, these parts “could be considered for future studies using the recommended regional multi-modal approach.”

Councillor Roberts stated: “Flintshire is a main gateway into North Wales and the wider region, and the fragility of the road network, regular congestion, and the lack of resilience on the network is hampering economic growth, tourism and having a detrimental impact on the health of our citizens.”

“We need a package of measures and funding to alleviate the impact of traffic congestion on the local economy and improve air quality in Aston, Higher Shotton, Queensferry and Sealand, and we need investment for transport infrastructure and services in our county.”

The Welsh Government has stated that all future road schemes must meet strict criteria, including not increasing carbon emissions, not increasing the number of cars on the road, not leading to higher speeds and emissions, and not negatively impacting the environment.

The decision to scrap the Red Route has angered local politicians.

Mark Tami MP said: “I feel that my constituents next to the A494 have been badly let down. I’m extremely disappointed at the announcement and I think the minister needs to wake up and think again. 

“While I understand the need to balance environmental concerns, public health has to be the number one priority. This decision will have a negative impact on the people of Aston, Higher Shotton, Queensferry and Sealand who have already put up with serious levels of air pollution for far too long. 

“I will continue to press the Welsh Government for measures that will solve this issue for Deeside.” 

Speaking in the Senedd today, Jack Sargeant MS said: “I am obviously deeply disappointed. It is clear from today’s announcement that the red route is not going ahead.  

“Ultimately this was about reducing air pollution. Minister, it is now time for you to deliver. My constituents need immediate action, not more reviews. 

“I would be grateful if you could outline what immediate action looks like and what steps you are taking, as the Minister responsible, to invest all of the money ear marked for the red route in Deeside to alleviate this public health problem?” 

County Councillor for Shotton East and Higher, David Evans, stated: “I am very disheartened with the decision by Welsh Government not to go ahead with the red route as this will not help my constituents in the Higher Shotton area.  

“Pollution levels from exhaust fumes are already at a very concerning level and this decision is not good for us in Deeside. I call on the Welsh Government to come up with a solution to the problems on the A494 Aston Hill which doesn’t involve 30-foot-high fences as that is not the answer.” 

Aston County Councillor Gillian Brockley added: “I am at a loss for words. For over a decade, the red route has been fought for, consulted on and promised to Deeside, and specifically for the residents of Aston and Ewloe. ”

“I have lived in Alder Avenue, directly facing  the A494 blue route. 40 years ago my father planted trees and bushes alongside the A494 pathway, attempting to create a barrier between our residents and the pollution that was literally on our doorsteps. ”

“Since then, the volume of traffic has increased hugely and the Aston Hill is no longer fit for purpose.”

“The blue route was rejected and must not be allowed to be brought back to the table as an alternative option to the promised Red Route, nor the ridiculous 30ft wall notion that was suggested last year.

“We need another viable option, to alleviate the pressure of an ever-increasing volume of traffic on the A494. Our residents’ health has suffered enough, and we must not go quietly into the night on this matter.”

The decision not to proceed with the red route highlights the challenges of balancing environmental concerns with the pressing needs of local communities.

The decision is likely to continue to draw attention as policymakers work towards addressing the complex challenges of the present and future.

The Welsh government’s decision to cancel road improvement works in Flintshire has been met with disappointment by the Flintshire County Council.

The council has expressed concerns that there are currently no alternative solutions being put forward and no funding for much-needed improvement works to local transport infrastructure.

The cancelled projects include the A494 Dee Bridge crossing, the A494 Aston Hill, Ewloe Interchange, and the much-needed resilience measures on the A55 after Northop.

The lack of investment in public transport is also a cause for concern, including the Wrexham to Bidston line, which could reduce traffic on the A494.

Flintshire County Council’s Leader, Councillor Ian Roberts, stated that the fragility of the road network, regular congestion, and the lack of resilience on the network is hampering economic growth, tourism and having a detrimental impact on the health of the citizens.

The council believes a package of measures and funding is needed to alleviate the impact of traffic congestion on the local economy and improve air quality in Aston, Higher Shotton, Queensferry, and Sealand.

There is also no mention of trunking the A548, which is carrying a volume of traffic for which it was not designed.

“We would hope to work with Welsh Government on the viability of the wider Flintshire integrated transport proposals and the delivery of the North Wales Metro vision,” Councillor Roberts said.

The Welsh Government had previously stated that all future road projects must pass strict criteria, including not increasing carbon emissions or negatively impacting the environment.

The decision to cancel the proposed network resilience improvement works is part of this effort to meet these criteria.

The lack of investment in transport infrastructure is a concern for many citizens in Flintshire, who feel that they are being let down by the Welsh government.

The issue has the potential to impact economic growth and tourism in the region, and the council is calling for more investment to be made to improve the local transport infrastructure.

In announcing the scrapping of a range of schemes Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters told the Senedd ‘we will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over’ as he set out findings from some key documents that shape the future of road building in Wales. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The new documents include the findings of the Roads Review Panel – an independent expert group tasked with assessing more than 50 road building projects – and the Welsh Government’s National Transport Delivery Plan. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Together, the documents show the status of 59 projects in total including those going ahead, those not progressing at this stage and those replaced by revised works. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Speaking this afternoon in the Senedd, Lee Waters said: “Let me be very clear at the outset, we will still invest in roads. In fact, we are building new roads as I speak – but we are raising the bar for where new roads are the right response to transport problems. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“We are also investing in real alternatives, including investment in rail, bus, walking and cycling projects. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“Of course, doing that in an age of austerity is very challenging. Not only are we not getting our share of HS2 investment, but the UK Government is pushing many bus services over a cliff edge, as well as slashing our capital investment budgets. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“Even if we’d wanted to keep progressing all the road schemes in the pipeline we just do not have the money to do so. Our capital budget will be 8% lower next year in real terms as a result of the UK Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“With fewer resources it becomes even more important to prioritise and the Roads Review helps us to do that.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Going forward, the Welsh Government say they will only consider future road investment for projects that: ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

  • Reduce carbon emissions and support a shift to public transport, walking and cycling
  • improve safety through small-scale change
  • help the Welsh Government adapt to the impacts of climate change
  • provide connections to jobs and areas of economic activity in a way that maximises the use of public transport, walking and cycling

In developing schemes, they say the focus should be on minimising carbon emissions, not increasing road capacity, not increasing emissions through higher vehicle speeds and not adversely affecting ecologically valuable sites. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Deputy Minister added: “Our approach for the last 70 years is not working. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“As the review points out the by-pass that was demanded to relieve congestion often ends up leading to extra traffic, which in time brings further demands for extra lanes, wider junctions and more roads.  ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“Round and round we go, emitting more and more carbon as we do it and we will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over.  ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“When Julie James and I took up our new roles, we made clear that in this decade Wales has to make greater cuts in emissions than we have in the whole of the last three decades combined. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“Greater cuts in the next ten years than the whole of the last 30 – that’s what the science says we need to do if we are to future-proof Wales. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“The UN General Secretary has warned that unless we act decisively now we face a ‘climate catastrophe’. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“If we are to declare a Climate and Nature Emergency, legislate to protect the Well-being of Future Generations, and put into law a requirement to reach NetZero by 2050 – we simply have to be prepared to follow through.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

More to follow

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