Column in Llanelli Star on 27th September 2017
People say that the definition of madness is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
So it must be madness to spend £1.1 billion on 15 miles of new motorway just south of Newport when we already know the outcome: traffic will go up, the motorway will clog up, and the same voices will be calling for yet more money to build yet more road. The Road Haulage Lobby are already saying it needs another lane - before it is even built!
We can’t keep building our way out of the problem of congestion when we know that roads simply fill up again before too long. Our society is dominated by the car and I think it’s time we changed that.
Instead, we need to spend the small amount of money we have, doing things that will enable and encourage us to make journeys using other means. Our public transport system is in dire need of an overhaul and our local roads are jammed with people driving very short distances.
Two thirds of car journeys are less than five miles and one in ten trips is less than a mile. These are journeys that could easily be done by bus, bike or on foot - as they were a generation ago. Freeing up our roads for when we really do need the car. This is where I think our money should be invested.
More teachers face being laid off in the next year, and more bus routes will be cut and leisure centres closed. Yet in this ‘age of austerity’ we are on course to spend a colossal £1.1 billion (and that’s without ongoing maintenance costs) on one project in one part of Wales which the UK Treasury regards as low value for money.
Imagine if we spent this money on a Swansea Bay Metro system instead? A cheap and reliable bus and rail system that would link up communities across Llanelli, Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea. And a network of walking and cycling routes that would knit our streets together to tackle the school run.
But we’ll never have the money to invest in an ambitious plan like this as long as we keep ploughing money into roads. It’s time to admit the old approach isn’t working. It’s time to try something new.