FSB Wales’ new report Different Routes, Same Destination has been launched, and calls for the Welsh Government to ensure a positive strategy for the future of roads in Wales.
The report aims to outline a constructive vision for roads within a sustainable development framework that accounts for the economic activity which roads promote, and the value roads bring for the way they facilitate trade, investment, and business travel.
Following the Welsh Government’s Roads Review outcomes, this new report calls for the development of opportunities for new infrastructure projects which balance sustainability goals, to ensure that socio-economic benefits are not lost.
Ben Francis, Wales Policy Chair, said:
“The future of our roads is a complex and often controversial conversation but one that needs to happen, given the importance of roads to our national infrastructure and to smaller businesses which unavoidably reply on roads. We hope our report, launched today, will go some way to start the journey towards informing sustainable solutions and transport needs of our communities and small businesses that are the backbone of the Welsh economy.
The quality and resilience of our road infrastructure matters. 78% of goods moved in the United Kingdom are moved by roads, so congestion, poorly maintained local roads and a lack of regional strategic planning and investment pose a significant barrier to economic growth. Efficient road infrastructure will always be an important part of distributing opportunities for attracting investment and levelling up our communities.
Transportation alone does not create economic growth and opportunity, but it enables and supports networks and opportunities that are important for business. From local farmers transporting produce to manufacturers sending equipment across the globe, to self-employed tradespeople keeping homes safe and warm, a joined-up transportation system is crucial to facilitate our economic activities.
We recognise the challenge and urgency of making different decisions and the need to promote conversations about alternative transport and promoting modal shift among businesses where that’s viable. Our recommendations pave the way for a complementary infrastructure landscape that balances the need for roads with our net-zero ambitions. We need to shift the conversation about roads to a more positive and ambitious space, while providing the support and tools SMEs need to make sustainable decisions.
FSB’s previous research tells us 73% of small businesses in Wales believe that they have a responsibility to become more sustainable, but with conflicting economic headwinds, many firms are struggling to reach this goal. For instance, almost half of small businesses told us that zero emission vehicles are currently too expensive, limiting their opportunities to decarbonise transport, proving that sustainable and economic policies must go together.
Meanwhile, the shift towards electrical vehicles presents new road pricing challenges for both UK and Welsh governments and local authorities, which require an urgent need to address the way revenue will be raised for roads in the future.
Welsh Government needs to articulate an economic vision that concentrates on net zero while also recognising the importance of maintaining and developing reliable road infrastructure in Wales to help grow businesses and the economy. That needs to go hand-in-hand with an improved vision for and investment in affordable and reliable public transport to help individuals and businesses make different decisions about transport.
In an economic storm, it is vital that economic recovery is a primary focus for the Welsh Government. That’s why creating a shared vision, providing clarity on long term goals, measures, values and decisions are critical to steering towards sustainability, and this is no different when it comes to the roads that connect our communities and businesses.”