Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
Today I am publishing ‘Moving North Wales Forward - Our Vision for North Wales and the North East Wales Metro’. Improving transport services and infrastructure within North Wales and across the border is one of the Government’s priorities for the coming years.
Our vision is to modernise transport in North Wales to create a sustainable, reliable, efficient and quality integrated transport network across the region. It will connect people, communities and businesses to jobs, facilities and services and maximise the economic opportunities of connectivity across Wales and our borders. Brexit will mean it is more important than ever to have good connections to markets across the Wales – England border. Direct links to key centres in the Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands and to London and direct public transport services to airports and key rail hubs will help to drive economic growth.
Modernising transport in North Wales and the North East Wales Metro will contribute to the achievement of our well-being objectives. It will provide the right platform to deliver sustainable economic development, connecting people, communities and business to employment, services, facilities and markets through reliable, resilient infrastructure and supporting an integrated approach to deliver the transition to a lower carbon and climate resistant society.
There are strong links between the economy of North East Wales and that of North West England and this is reflected in the significant cross-border commuter flows of around one million journeys per month. The potential for future job growth is substantial in the cross-border area and improvements to public transport systems and the road network will be needed to cater for the resulting increased demand on our transport networks.
The work that I have set out on the future of local bus services will be instrumental in delivering that integrated transport network across the North of Wales and in the North East Wales Metro area. Feedback from the Bus Summit held on 23 January will help shape how we will work together with partners to deliver the quality bus services across North Wales that our communities need and deserve.
The new Wales and Borders franchise will be in place from 2018 and also provides a real opportunity to secure improved public transport services to, from and within North Wales. I am continuing to make the case to the UK Government for a fairer share of rail funding for Wales to enable the investment needed in rail capacity, resilience and passenger facilities across the whole of Wales.
I have committed to projects of nearly £600 million over the coming years for transport infrastructure improvements across North Wales and am ongoing with safeguarding an additional £41 million of EU funding for transport schemes in the region. We have taken forward many of the commitments in the National Transport Finance Plan published in 2015 and identified further schemes such as a programme of improvements to pinchpoints on the trunk road network. We are developing key projects such as the Third Menai Crossing, the A55/A494/A548 Corridor Improvement in Deeside and integrated transport hubs in Wrexham and Deeside.
We have an ambitious vision for transport in North Wales but we cannot achieve this on our own, it will require the collaboration of a number of agencies to deliver that vision.
We will work with all agencies on both sides of the border to deliver an integrated transport system that meets the needs of people in both Wales and England, enabling access to existing and planned employment opportunities.
Partners on both sides of the border can also contribute to the delivery of the vision through the targeting of their own resources to develop transformational change across the area.
Recognising the important role our partners have in assisting the Government to deliver its vision, I am proposing to set up a team to take forward this work. Initially, the focus will be to establish an officer steering group with responsibility for developing the necessary detail that sits behind this vision document, and the programme of intervention options beyond those already in the pipeline.
The team will work in collaboration with other public sector organisations, operators, business, the third sector and communities to improve transport integration across all modes to ensure that transport improvements deliver the transport system that meets the needs of North Wales and turns our vision for the future into reality.
As we develop our delivery approach, I recognise that the working arrangements will need to evolve and adapt as regional arrangements associated with public sector reform and Growth Bids develop.
There is huge potential to deliver economic growth in North Wales. A modern, high quality integrated transport system is fundamental to achieving that potential and I am committed to investing in that work to ensure this region is a competitive and connected component of the UK economy.