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We stated in the National Transport Finance Plan published in July 2015 that we would develop a scheme for improvements to the A55/A494/A548 Flintshire Corridor, which experiences more traffic than it was designed for, resulting in regular congestion.
In September 2017, we announced our preferred option to address these problems, having taken full account of the technical, social, economic and environmental aspects of the scheme and after listening to consultation responses.
As part of our programme to deliver the scheme we need to conduct a range of surveys and data gathering over the coming months to examine how exactly the new road can be routed and designed in a way that will minimise the impact of the improvements on local residents, the landscape, air quality and biodiversity.
This briefing note aims to answer some of the questions you may have about the scheme and the forthcoming surveys.
Background and policy context
The Welsh Government is striving for a more prosperous and equal nation. We are committed to working regionally to help achieve this and there is huge potential to deliver economic growth in North Wales.
A modern, high quality, multi-modal, integrated transport system is fundamental to achieving that potential, along with achieving our sustainability and climate change objectives.
In 2017, the Welsh Government set out our vision for the Metro in North Wales. In partnership with Transport for Wales and Flintshire County Council, a green transport system is being delivered in Deeside, one of the most important employment areas in Wales. This will include improvements to public transport networks and services as well as the introduction and enhancement of active travel paths.
However, public transport on its own cannot deal with current demand let alone tackle the further congestion expected from future growth in traffic.
The A55/A494/A548 Flintshire Corridor is generally below modern design standards, with some of the junctions having slip roads that do not comply with current standards for safe vehicle manouvering when entering and leaving the A55 and A494.
The planning stage for a scheme to address these problems started in October 2010. Since then, the route corridor has been assessed using the Welsh Transport Planning Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG) procedure. The Planning and Appraisal Stages 1 and 2 have been completed to date.
Two options, Red and Blue, were identified as being most suitable for addressing the problems and as part of WelTAG Appraisal Stage 2, we consulted on these options in Spring 2017, along with a Do Nothing option, where the existing infrastructure would just be maintained as normal.
Following careful consideration of all studies and consultation responses, the Red route was announced as the preferred option in September 2017.
The Flintshire Corridor scheme at a glance
The Flintshire Corridor scheme is an integral part of the North Wales Metro and will:
- improve capacity, reliability and journey times
- improve safety
- improve connections for businesses
- improve access between residential areas and places of employment
- reduce carbon emissions and minimise adverse impacts on the human environment along the existing roads
- make more efficient use of the existing transport infrastructure
- provide opportunities for improved access to public transport
- provide opportunities for non-motorised modes of transport and active travel
The preferred route comprises:
- a new 13km two-lane dual carriageway, linking the A55-A5119 Northop Junction (Junction 33) with the A494 and A550 north of Deeside Parkway Junction, via Kelsterton Interchange and the Flintshire Bridge
- a combination of improvement to the existing road, new alignment and a new length of highway
- increased capacity along the existing A548
- modifications and improvements to junctions
- a new section of road between the A548 (at Kelsterton) and the A55 (at Northop)
Map of the preferred route
Where we are now
We are currently at Key Stage 3. During this stage the preferred route will be developed in further detail and further environmental, traffic and economic appraisals will be undertaken. The Welsh Government has appointed chartered quantity surveyors and commercial management practice Corderoy, supported by Capita as technical advisors, to assist us to manage the delivery of the scheme.
The team at Corderoy has developed a procurement strategy to deliver the next phase. As part of that strategy, a design partner will be appointed in early 2021 to develop the general route discussed at Key Stage 2 into a detailed, buildable proposal.
This preliminary design process will consider all the environmental and engineering issues in more detail and look to address some of the additional matters raised during the consultation in 2017. For example, following the consultation, the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales has agreed to review the introduction of an additional climbing lane on the A55, westbound from Junction 33 at Northop to Halkyn Services. This is being undertaken by a separate commission by North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent (NMWTRA).
Surveys and our commitment to landowners
Our team from Capita, working alongside Ymgynghoriaeth Gwynedd Consultancy (YGC), will be undertaking ecological surveys in order to identify important and protected species and habitats that may be impacted along the preferred route of the Flintshire Corridor scheme. Some of these species and habitats are also protected under UK and international law.
The information from the survey results will be used to design a scheme where impacts on the biodiversity of the area are minimised or avoided where possible. The surveys will also provide information on appropriate environmental enhancements that could be implemented as part of the scheme.
In the first instance the surveys will involve preliminary environmental investigations only, with a small number of ecologists carrying out a non- invasive walkover of the land to identify potential areas of further survey.
During Autumn 2020 we will be contacting landowners to start a dialogue about gaining access to their land for these surveys. By working closely with landowners and their tenants we will be in a better position to arrange any work in a manner that causes the least amount of disruption to them.
Every possible effort will be made to avoid any damage and any disturbance will be kept to a minimum. However, in the rare occurrence that any damage and/or disturbance is caused by the survey work, compensation may be payable and this includes reasonable agents’ fees relating to such claims.
Information gathering and Covid-19
In the interest of caution towards public safety, we rearranged our programme in order to avoid conducting any surveys in the first half of 2020. We are now fully confident that we can commission and carry out the survey work in a manner that is safe for all personnel and the local community.
All personnel will be working in accordance with the guidance issued under regulation 7A of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (the “Coronavirus Regulations”) and will take all reasonable measures to maintain an appropriate social distance between those in the workplace at all times.
We have also amended our communications activity. Whereas our officers and project delivery partners would usually aim to meet with you to provide a face-to-face briefing, we are sending you this briefing note and welcome any requests for follow-up phone or virtual meetings, or feedback in any format.
It is important to us that we develop the Flintshire Corridor improvements in close dialogue with local communities and stakeholders so that we can deliver the associated economic benefits in the most appropriate way.
We will be holding public information events when we have a design partner on board and when it is appropriate and safe to do so, where we can meet local people, explain more about our progress to date and listen to any information or ideas you may have that could help us and our design partner develop the preferred route further.
Further information including project visuals and detailed reports on the scheme to date are on the website.