Fix the roads we have before building any new ones
Fixing Wales' roads should be a priority over building new ones, according to the Assembly's Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.
The condition of the Welsh road network has long been a concern for the public, who have been at the heart of the 'State of the Roads' inquiry. The Committee concluded that a lack of money and priority for repairs is a stand out problem and that a long-term approach is needed rather than working from year to year.
The Committee held a photo competition to raise awareness of its inquiry, receiving entries from all over Wales showing the state of the roads from the public's perspective. The winning entry, from Antony Maybury from Wrexham, depicted a lorry passing by a large pothole on the A525 near Bronington. The entries were judged by members of the Committee, and were put on display at an exhibition in the Senedd in September.
The road network is one of Wales' greatest assets, covering 21,000 miles, with an estimated value of £13.5bn, but severe adverse weather like the winter of 2017-18 has taken its toll and local authorities are battling a huge backlog.
Since the competition, the road has been filled, but the state of the roads remains a problem in Wrexham. "While one of the potholes has been filled in, others remain. The roads by me are horrendous. It's like driving a beach buggy around," said Mr Maybury.
The report recommends that the forthcoming Wales Transport Strategy should prioritise the maintenance of the existing road network instead of building new roads. The report also recommends that the Welsh Government establishes a committee of road-building experts to advise on techniques and materials that could save money on road maintenance.
"The condition of Welsh roads are a matter of great importance to all of us, whether we drive, cycle or take the bus we are all road users," said Russell George AM, Chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.
"The everyday things that sustain us, including much of our food, is transported on the roads and keep the economy moving.
"One of the sobering aspects of this inquiry has been how many of the issues raised in previous studies remain difficult. There is an overwhelming consensus that long term funding for local government and trunk road agencies would lead to improvements – but we remain stuck in an annual cycle.
"We need to act now, and this Committee believes that repairing and improving the network we have right now should be a clear priority over building new roads."
The Committee makes fourteen recommendations in its report, including:
The forthcoming Wales Transport Strategy should set a clear priority for maintaining the existing road network, mainstreaming and upgrading active travel infrastructure, and prioritising access, in preference to building new roads.
Welsh Government and local government should ensure that priority and funding is given to cost-effective long-term planned maintenance in order to reduce more costly short-term fixes.
If Welsh Government can provide five-year funding to Transport for Wales then it can – and should – do the same for local authorities.
The Welsh Government should bring together a stakeholder group similar to the Highways England Pavements Efficiency Group to advise on the most effective materials and processes.
The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.
Read the full report:
Report by the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee. The state of roads in Wales (PDF, 1 MB)