AN £80 MILLION transport scheme will target heavy traffic at peak times on the most congested roads in North Wales.
As part of the North Wales Growth Bid, the programme aims to improve connectivity, reduce carbon footprint and complement Welsh Government investment in the region’s road and rail networks.
A series of projects would be introduced from 2019-2024, creating up to 2,000 indirect or construction jobs.
The proposals centre around developing ‘Integrated Travel Zones’ along the Deeside Corridor; the A483 and Wrexham Town Centre; Prestatyn, Abergele, St Asaph, Llandudno, Conwy and Colwyn Bay; Caernarfon-Menai Corridor, and north Anglesey. Alongside these, some region-wide projects would also be developed.
They include more frequent and reliable bus services, PlusBike schemes at railway stations, and park and share and park and ride sites in strategic locations off the A55 and in rural areas, all as part of an integrated transport network.
It is all part of an overall move – led by North Wales Economic Ambition Board and the Welsh Government – to decarbonise transport networks, strengthen bus and rail links and deliver a sustainable transport infrastructure that reduces environmental impacts.
Flintshire council leader Aaron Shotton, chairman of the Growth Bid, says there will need to be a major culture change for these services to work, and the plans implemented will need to be carefully introduced to ensure a smooth transition for motorists.
“Our transport network is dominated by single occupancy cars, often due to a lack of an alternative. Better public transport options are much needed to achieve a culture change in the way North Walians choose to travel.
“This project will deliver a number of Integrated Transport Zones across North Wales in areas where better public transport, interchanges between car, bus and rail, improved walking and cycling facilities will all contribute to reducing main road congestion which in turn improves access to employment and services.”
He added: “Transport is fundamentally an enabler of economic growth and without these interventions being developed, there is a risk that growth will be stifled.
“We have the support of the private sector, who feel the transport infrastructure and services urgently need addressing, and are pushing for these improvements to be part of the overall Growth Deal for North Wales.”
Cabinet portfolio holders for Transport across the six counties – Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham – have agreed to establish a regional transport group for a new, joined-up approach.
Chaired by Wrexham councillor David A Bithell, they will focus on region-wide transport schemes, cross border connections and major routes, particularly the A55, which stretches from east to west in the north.
Decarbonisation of transport networks is also crucial, said Cllr Bithell, who added: “When you look at the relatively short journeys many thousands of people in North Wales take to work every day, it’s not sustainable for each of them to get in their car and drive.
“We will work alongside Welsh Government and complement their investments by developing a series of interventions around their development of the strategic road and rail infrastructure to alleviate some of these issues.”
Iwan Prys Jones, programme manager for the Ambition Board, believes that better integration between transport modes, through park and ride, better bus routes and car share schemes and local walking and cycling are initiatives which could make an immediate impact.
“Relatively short journeys to work are causing congestion on busy parts of our road network, particularly around areas of Wrexham and Deeside,” he said.
“Many people who work often live within two or three miles but drive every morning on congested trunk roads for one or two junctions, come off and then fight their way through traffic. It could be avoided by introducing some of these measures.
“One we have looked at is park and share; this already happens all over North Wales, with two or three people meeting at a certain point, leaving one of their cars and sharing the other to get to work.
“Why not formalise that at half a dozen sites at strategic locations along the A55 where people can park in a safe environment, share a vehicle and take the pressure off the road network.”
Mr Prys Jones added: “The default position is for everybody to jump in their car to go anywhere, largely because public transport is thought to be either too slow, too infrequent or too expensive.
“We have to try and create a series of transport networks that can change that culture, which in turn is good for the environment and will alleviate traffic congestion for years to come.”