The Welsh Labour Government’s recent announcement of a freeze on road building threatens to bring the Welsh economy to a complete standstill.
In many cases, the decision will not have the intended result of reducing carbon emissions, and will increase congestion, often in residential areas.
It will most certainly hold back our recovery at a fragile economic time and well and truly puts up a sign that says Wales is closed for business.
Even before this announcement we had seen the economic and environmental damage of Welsh Government’s approach to transport.
In the last Senedd, Mark Drakeford scrapped plans for an M4 Relief Road, even though his party had promised to deliver one in their manifesto.
As a result, congestion around Newport is a bottleneck, choking off the potential growth that we could have seen following the abolition of the tolls on the then-Severn Bridge and disproportionally polluting that area of Newport.
The reason given was environmental concerns, but the inspector’s report found that building the road could be beneficial to the environment in terms of carbon emissions.
This is just one of many instances of Welsh Labour’s transport policy being driven by dogma rather than by logic and nuance.
Sadly, the Welsh Government seems to have a dogmatic hatred for private car use, yet were still happy to give grants to Aston Martin to build SUVs in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Now I’m all in favour of ministers encouraging job growth, innovation and attracting businesses, but their economic strategy is full of contradictions.
It’s hypocritical to chuck a load of cash at Aston Martin, and then in the next breath cancel road building projects altogether.
Of course, one road building project is allowed to go ahead. Just 72 hours after the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, had announced a freeze on all road building in Wales, the government performed a U-turn and gave the green light to the Llandeilo bypass in Carmarthenshire.
All of the same arguments in favour of the Llandeilo bypass can be made for the Dinas Powys bypass, for instance, and many others across Wales.
These bypasses would greatly reduce congestion and emissions in their respective towns. The Welsh Government approved the Llandeilo bypass because they had agreed it in a budget agreement with Plaid Cymru in a previous Senedd.
It seems that while logic will not convince the Welsh Government to rethink their transport strategy, political priorities will.
Labour ministers also felt it appropriate to scold Cardiff Council’s recent decision to reopen Castle Street in the centre of Cardiff.
This key route is essential for businesses and commuters in Cardiff and had been shut with no proper consultation at the start of the pandemic, and then only opened up to taxis and buses later.
Even though traffic and pollution had been pushed into residential areas near the city centre, the Minister felt that Castle Street should remain closed to private cars, even though the Council had resolved otherwise.
Thankfully for struggling businesses, many of whom are still relying on delivery services for a large wedge of their revenue, Cardiff Council stuck by their guns against the wishes of ministers.
Meanwhile North Wales will see plans for a third Menai crossing put on hold. This decision will greatly hurt Anglesey’s viability as a port going forward as congestion in the area is already a serious issue.
I am keen to work across the Senedd chamber with Members to reduce our impact on the environment, but measures put in place to do this have to be proportional and nuanced.
At a time when our environment and our economy are in a fragile state, I fear that the Welsh Labour Government’s road-building freeze will help neither.