The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on traffic patterns should be considered in detail before a decision is made about proceeding with the proposed A55/A494/A548 Deeside Corridor Improvement, the so called ‘Red Route’.

This is one of the recommendations set out in the Senedd Petitions Committee report published today, Tuesday 2 March.

The Committee held an inquiry into the proposed road scheme after a petition with 1,409 signatures was presented to the Senedd in June 2019. The petition urged the Welsh Government to withdraw support for the proposed ‘Red Route’ stating, among its reasons, concerns about its impact on ancient woodland, the cost of the work and the need to tackle climate change.

In its report the Committee calls for a detailed re-assessment of the costs of the scheme, future stages of the project to be assessed against updated transport guidance, design work to minimise the impact on ancient woodland, as well as the need to consider long-term changes to travel patterns and behaviour in light of COVID-19.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Janet Finch-Saunders MS says:

“During the inquiry the Committee heard strong arguments on both sides of this issue. Concerns were raised with us about the environmental impact of the proposed route, as well as arguments supporting the need for the new road in order to ease traffic congestion in the area and to support local jobs and the economy. What nobody could foresee at the beginning of our investigations was the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact it would have on the way we live our lives. 

“Having considered the evidence, the Committee has concluded that it would be prudent for the Welsh Government to consider the longer-term impact of the pandemic on work and travel patterns, before it commits to further detailed design work and a final decision on whether or not the new road should be built.

“We have a made a number of other recommendations around the appraisal of the scheme, its costs and detailed design. We have done so in the acknowledgment that the forthcoming Senedd election means that further decisions will be taken by a future Welsh Government and any further scrutiny that may be required will be undertaken by the next Senedd.”

The Committee report contains six recommendations, including:

  • That detailed design work and further impact assessments in relation to the proposed scheme do not take place until the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on traffic patterns has been fully assessed. This evidence should be available for consideration as part of any public inquiry the proposed scheme is subject to.
  • The Welsh Government should ensure that any road scheme which is implemented is part of a wider package of public transport improvements in the area and that schemes such as the North Wales Metro are delivered effectively.
  • The Welsh Government must ensure that adequate consultation is undertaken with organisations including the Woodland Trust and Natural Resources Wales during the detailed design stage of the scheme to mitigate and minimise any impacts on areas of ancient woodland.
  • Any public inquiry held following the publication of the draft Orders should be highly publicised and accessible to all residents in areas which may be affected by the route or construction of any new road.

The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.