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Wales leads the way in changing how people move

Wales leads the way in changing how people move

The Welsh Government has taken the bold step of freezing all new road-building projects while it conducts a review, and considers shifting the money to more sustainable transport projects. The move is part of Wales’ effort to reduce carbon emissions.

The review was announced in the Welsh Parliament yesterday afternoon by the Deputy Climate Change Minister, Lee Waters.

Wales is aiming to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Mr Waters says that means cuts to emissions over the next decade have to be double the amount cut over the previous three.

He told BBC Wales: “Transport generates something like 17% of all our emissions, so it has to play its part. If we carry on going as we’re going, we’re not going to hit net zero until 2090. At the very latest scientists tell us we have until 2050 to stop this running out of control.”

The freeze means three major projects will be put on hold during the review:

  • Deeside ‘Red Route’, which would link the A55, A494 and A550 in Deeside and include a new carriageway;
  • Llandeilo Bypass, which is used as a route from Swansea to the A40;
  • A third Anglesey crossing.

However, concerns have been raised about congestion, air quality and the impact on local communities, as the projects now on hold won’t be taking pressure off the existing infrastructure.

The Welsh government wants to redirect the money from new roads and into maintaining existing routes and investing in public transport. Currently, though, only around 32% of all journeys in Wales are made by public transport, walking and cycling, says BBC News.

The target is to increase that to 45% by 2040, but habits have shifted dramatically during the pandemic. Wales saw a huge 73% drop in bus journeys between March 2020 and March 2021, and an even bigger 84% drop in rail passenger journeys between financial years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.

A big challenge for Wales will be how to encourage people to use alternatives to the car, including how to generate timely, nuanced and reliable data on infrastructure use and using it responsively to iterate quickly and effectively.

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