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Will Ending New Road Building Tackle Climate Change at the Cost to the Economy?


Written by:


Ken Evans,

ICE Wales Cymru Chair 

The Welsh Government announced recently that it is pausing new road building projects as part of its plan to tackle the climate emergency. Proposed schemes will be scrutinized by a panel of experts who will determine the carbon impact of each scheme before it is given the green light.

As this proposal tackles one situation is it likely to affect another – the economy?

As the UK slowly comes out of Covid restrictions and business across the country re-opens, ICE Wales Cymru Chair, Ken Evans, queries if the consequences of halting new roadways will have a negative effect on the logistics for deliveries. The existing routes are already unable to cope with the traffic which, with known tailbacks causing more exhaust emissions to be released into the atmosphere, is already having an impact on the climate emergency.

Two key routes in north Wales are likely to be the first schemes to be hit by this announcement, namely the A55 Deeside Red Route and the third Anglesey crossing both of which are crucial to the north Wales economy.  It is undoubtedly going to be a multi-agency balancing act to protect both the economy and environment in tandem.

Funding earmarked for road building will be diverted to maintaining the local Welsh road network, much of which has suffered from lack of investment and the lasting effects of flood damage caused by climate change.

Ken Evans said:

“As civil engineers we need to ensure this funding is effectively spent whilst ensuring we adopt a more sustainable approach lowering our own carbon footprint, for example investing in low temperature asphalts and in-situ road recycling works”.

The Future of Transport in Wales

Wales is the first country in the world to have a Well Being and Future Generations Act. This ensures that government decisions have a positive impact for future generations.  The Welsh Government has set a target of zero carbon by 2050.  The target date set for phasing out new vehicles fueled by petrol and diesel in Wales is 2030, only nine years away. If this vision is to become a reality, ICE Wales Cymru suggests that civil engineers have an important part to play in ensuring the necessary infrastructure to support new electric vehicle alternatives is in place.

Taking Cardiff as an example: Currently the city has approximately 200 charging points which means this would need to increase to 10,000 by 2025 and to 40,000 by 2030 to cope with demand and make the use of electric vehicles a realistic and sustainable option.  Locating home charging points will prove a challenge in many built up urban areas and in Welsh Valleys communities where there are densely populated areas of row upon row of terraced housing.

There are already positive changes happening in Wales with the introduction of electric buses and an electric vehicle charging strategy part of the Welsh Government’s transport policy which seeks to make a positive contribution to the Well-Being Generation Act goals. If we continue to follow this path we will start to make progress towards our future goals and civil engineering will be at its centre.