'All Change' - Radical Transport Policy in Wales
Account Manager Ben Lloyd writes about Welsh Government transport policy since 2021, and how this radical overhaul of transport in Wales can meet the aspirations of the Welsh public.
Since the 2021 election, the Welsh Government has undertaken a major overhaul of transport policy. Its overarching principle is to encourage people away from car use and towards either public transport or active travel (i.e. walking or cycling). This “modal shift” also aims to reduce air pollution from vehicles and contribute the Welsh Government’s net zero ambitions.
The main elements of this overhaul have been:
Publishing Llwybr Newydd: the Wales transport strategy 2021 which included a target that 45 per cent of journeys should be made by public transport, walking and cycling by 2040.
Commissioning a Roads Review which recommended delaying, changing or cancelling nearly all new road-building projects.
Reviewing its bus policy, with a complete review of bus funding and the introduction of franchising.
Proposing lowering the default speed limit to 20mph. The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) Bill will make it easier to establish clean air zones and penalise vehicle idling.
Releasing a white paper on taxi licensing reform.
Whether commentators support this agenda or not, they mostly agree that it is the most radical transport agenda in the United Kingdom at the moment.
However, this is also a controversial policy area. Political parties have strongly-held differences on the future of transport policy as well as its links to health and the environment. It is also an area where local concerns can clash with national politics, with MSs representing the views of communities in their constituency or region. This was most clear in a recent Senedd debate in which Labour voted to criticise their own roads review for a perceived lack of engagement with communities.
This new approach to transport has potentially wide-reaching consequences that will need to be considered by everyone who could be affected; whether those people more often use a car, bike, bus or train – especially as many people use a combination of these. Those organisations who provide public transport services, or rely on road transport to operate, would also have useful insight into this complex policy area.
The Bus Bill – promised by the First Minister in his most recent legislative programme for the 2023/24 Senedd term – will be a key focus for transport policy over the next 18 months, but we also expect debates about rail infrastructure, road development and air quality be a regular feature of the remainder of the Senedd term.
Arguably, Wales is developing the most interesting transport policy in the UK at the moment, but some of these wide-ranging announcements have often been neglected in wider public debate. The danger is that without the expertise of industry or of passengers, this radical overhaul of transport in Wales won’t meet the aspirations of the country as a whole.
For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.
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