Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
Today I am publishing the National Transport Finance Plan 2015. The Plan sets out my proposals for investment in transport infrastructure and services over the next five years and beyond.
The Wales Transport Strategy sets out the policy framework for the different areas of transport for which the Welsh Government is responsible.
The maximum benefits from transport will only be experienced if we have excellent national and international connections, enabling access to markets, to employment, education, and services. Providing an affordable, effective, and efficient transport system also assists with tackling poverty and delivering community benefits.
The draft National Transport Plan was published for public consultation on 14th December 2014 and consultation closed on 11th March 2015. Over 300 organisations and representative groups were contacted and a dedicated workshop session was also held, with representatives from equalities groups.
I would like to express my appreciation to the 162 respondents and workshop participants. Responses were received from a wide variety of individuals and organisations, and were generally supportive of the draft Plan subject to funding being available to deliver its schemes. There were differing views on where the main priority for delivery should focus. Some wanted greater spend on rail than on road schemes, whilst others commented that key road schemes should be delivered as soon as possible. Some wanted a stronger geographical focus, whilst a number focussed on very local concerns which should be addressed by local authorities
Whilst it is not possible to reconcile all the views expressed within the final Plan, all comments have been considered.
One of the recurring issues raised by respondents related to the style of the draft Plan and the need for greater detail around deliverability.
I have taken these views on-board. Respondents want a greater focus on delivery. The plan that I am publishing today is therefore, neither a policy document nor a prioritisation toolkit. The National Transport Finance plan focuses on delivery. It is a business plan for the projects that we will deliver over the short to medium term; the next 5 years.
The projects identified in our finance plan reflect an ambitious investment programme for Wales. It sets out how we intend to fund the programme using a range of financial sources such as European Structural Funds and the European Ten-T programme, in addition to the funding sources within the Welsh Government.
I recognise that the delivery profile of each scheme may be subject to change for a variety of reasons such as a result of the statutory processes that are undertaken, future budgetary settlements or changes in innovation. We will need to be responsive to changing circumstances and therefore the plan will be regularly updated and published so that everyone has clear sight of the progress of our programme.
As well as enabling day to day safe, efficient and effective operations of the trunk and motorway network, I will be investigating ways to improve resilience particularly along the A55 and M4 corridors. I also propose to place greater emphasis on improving air quality, reducing energy consumption, and addressing problems arising from traffic noise.
Where scheme outcomes can be delivered by alternative means, these will have already been tested for some of the schemes listed in the Plan. Where schemes are still at the development stage, the economic, social, and environmental considerations will be tested as part of the process of identifying the preferred solution. There will also be consultation with stakeholders on major schemes.
The Plan demonstrates a commitment to continue with improving road safety outside schools located on the trunk network as well as investing in initiatives to reduce road casualties.
Some schemes are already under construction such as the Gilwern to Brynmawr section of the A465, whilst others are still at the development phase. Investment will be spread across the whole of Wales with schemes such as the Caernarfon to Bontnewydd bypass and the Newtown bypass moving from development through to construction. There is a commitment to complete the improvements to the A465 corridor, and closures at Dyfi Bridge in Machynlleth will be a problem of the past when a new crossing is built.
There will also be major improvements on the strategic corridors such as the A55, A40, and M4 to improve connectivity and support planned economic developments.
The Plan strikes a good balance between major road investments, improvements to the public transport system, and encouraging sustainable travel. The Cardiff Capital Region Metro is a major project which will introduce a step change in the delivery of a true integrated transport system. This will be achieved by delivering enhanced connectivity to improve urban mobility and accessibility for people and enable businesses to reap the benefits of agglomeration. The learning from the Metro will act as a blue print for other parts of Wales.
The initiatives for bus and community transport places the passenger at the core of service delivery. This will be achieved through new bus quality standards delivered in partnership with bus and community transport operators. Particular emphasis will be placed on providing better links to key employments sites and services, and new infrastructure to improve access to users including disadvantaged groups within society.
Steps will be taken over the coming years to move towards a more integrated public transport network across Wales one where buses meet trains, people have better facilities to walk or cycle to connect with public transport, and seamless travel will be aided by better information and smart ticketing. We will also seek to further strengthen the TrawsCymru longer distance services.
Since the responsibility for rail infrastructure in Wales is non-devolved, the Plan includes commitments to continue to press UK Government and Network Rail to invest in the rail network. Electrification and modernisation of the rail network will bring significant potential to introduce transformational change to the transport system in Wales.
As well as targeting infrastructure improvements, the Plan includes proposals to prepare the ground to take on board responsibility for specifying and awarding the next Wales and Borders franchise.
There are exciting and challenging developments within the National Transport Finance Plan 2015 that take account of the powers Welsh Government already poses and will have to influence and improve transport across the whole of Wales. I am confident the investments over the Plan period will deliver a more integrated and sustainable transport system for all and support the Welsh economy to grow.
I intend to make an Oral Statement to Members on the National Transport Finance Plan when we return after the summer recess.