FULL REPORT & VIDEO CONTENT: Publishing its 2021 Transport Strategy – appropriately called ‘Llwybr Newydd [New Path] – the Welsh Government says it is taking the first steps on a longer journey.
Announcing the Strategy, Transport Minister Ken Skates MS, says: “Llwybr Newydd is the beginning of a journey – not an end. It sets a long-term direction and three urgent and immediate priorities. It shows where we want to go – and how we will get there.”
While there are no new major announcements, it lays out transport development in Wales, against the background of climate change and net-zero.
The overriding vision is for “an accessible, sustainable and efficient transport system” and the priority is to “actively aim to achieve a shift away from private car use to more sustainable transport modes for the majority of journeys.“
To achieve this the Welsh Government says it will: “Invest in low-carbon, accessible, efficient and sustainable transport services and infrastructure that enable more people to walk, cycle and use public transport, and low-emissions vehicles.“
The Strategy marks a shift towards more sustainable forms of transport, based around the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015. This legislation requires public bodies including Welsh Government to put long-term sustainability at the forefront of their thinking and decision making.
The new strategy – the result of a major consultation over the last year – aims to encourage people out of their cars, with a new target for 45% of journeys to be by sustainable means across Wales by 2045, up from 32% currently.
‘Llwybr Newydd – New Path’ commits to reducing transport emissions as part of efforts to tackle the climate emergency. Currently transport makes up 17% of Wales’ carbon emissions.
The strategy comes as more than £210 million is being invested across Wales in 2021/22.
More than £115 million is being allocated to local authorities to spend on transport projects that will support the commitments in Llwybr Newydd.
“Llwybr Newydd is a landmark moment and will help to fundamentally re-shape transport in Wales. It will change the way we make decisions about investment in transport right across the country”Ken Skates, Minister for Economy Transport and North Wales, Welsh Government
In addition, £70 million is being made available to Blaenau Gwent County Council to secure the additional service between Newport and Ebbw Vale and contribute to the longer term ambition of four trains per hour. The funding will enable infrastructure improvements, to be taken forward alongside Network Rail and Transport for Wales.
Another investment will see £25 million to support the Wrexham Gateway project, creating better connected bus and rail transport and redevelopment of the area around Wrexham General.
During 2021/22 £75 million will be spent on active travel, an increase from £5m at the start of this Welsh Government term.
As part of the £115 million investment being announced in local authority funding, nearly £47 million is being spent on active travel schemes, helping develop routes that support walking and cycling.
“I’m pleased that Welsh Government has accepted my Future Generations Report and Manifesto for the Future recommendation and set a target for a modal shift to sustainable transport”Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner
A further £6.4 million is being committed through the Safe Routes in Communities fund, with a particular focus on school routes. Another £20 million will be confirmed through the Active Travel Fund later in the financial year, taking the total dedicated active travel spend to £75 million – up from £5 million at the start of this Senedd term.
The Local Transport Fund will commit £28.9 million to projects to support Wales’ transport network. Applications were assessed against the sustainable transport hierarchy set out in Llwybr Newydd, with emphasis given to improving public transport reliability and journey times.
A further £9 million has been allocated to local authorities to move to zero emission vehicles and to roll-out charging infrastructure. Next week the Welsh Government will also publish its Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy to boost confidence for drivers wanting to use electric vehicles.
The Roads Resilience Fund, worth £17.4 million, is in place to address disruptions caused by severe weather to the highway network, especially to the public transport network.
Another £3 million is being committed to the North Wales Metro, helping to create an accessible, integrated transport system for people in the region.
Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, said: “Llwybr Newydd is a landmark moment and will help to fundamentally re-shape transport in Wales. It will encourage new and greener infrastructure and change the way we make decisions about investment in transport right across the country.
“The climate emergency is very real and it means we must take urgent action to reduce the carbon footprint of the transport system in Wales. That’s why we have set bold new targets for more sustainable transport forms like walking, cycling and public transport. This will help reduce reliance on the car by making the sustainable alternatives more appealing.
“Doing this means investing in high quality public transport alternatives and that’s why we are providing more than £210 million in transport schemes that will contribute to ambitions in our new plan.
“We’ve made a good start, with major investment in things like Metro, but we know we need to go further and faster and Llwybr Newydd sets us on the path to a transport system genuinely fit for future generations.”
Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner, says: “This is a transport strategy with people, climate and the Well-being of Future Generations Act at the centre of how we’ll move and connect in Wales.
“It’s good news for people who want to enjoy greener and better-connected communities, good news for people suffering with the ill health effects of traffic-induced emissions and pollution, good news for jobs and the economy, and good news for our children and grandchildren.
“I’m pleased that Welsh Government has accepted my Future Generations Report and Manifesto for the Future recommendation and set a target for a modal shift to sustainable transport.
“As we move to 45% of journeys to be made by public transport, walking and cycling by 2040, we need to remove social barriers and address equality issues so everyone in Wales can enjoy the benefits of this change, particularly those without access to a car and those living in rural areas.
“Together, these new priorities on improving digital connectivity, supporting local services and home working, and encouraging people to use better, sustainable transport will improve our health, tackle poverty and open our transport system to all.”
Lee Waters, Deputy Economy and Transport Minister, added: “A greener transport network will only be achieved if we can provide people with convenient alternatives to the car. Investing in trains, buses and cycle routes will not only help people get around but will make it easier to take choices that protect our planet and contribute to social justice.
“We are delivering this strategy in a pandemic but that isn’t going to stop us being bold. In fact it only makes it more important – high quality public transport will be critical to a fairer, greener and more equal recovery after Covid.
“The rise in remote working highlights the major changes underway in our economy. Local journeys are particularly well-suited to cycling and walking and we’re building a transport network that meets the needs of the future, not the needs of the past.”