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Cairns: Government must do more for transport in Wales

Labour ministers urged to get Wales moving.

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales

"I welcome the Economic Development and Transport Committee's approach, in conjunction with the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, in relation to the recent pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Transport (Wales) Bill.

That has contributed greatly to cross-party thinking, and I will talk more about that later. This debate gives us an ideal opportunity to review the Assembly Government's strategy, and the hopes and aspirations of other organisations that are affected by such a policy.

I will speak specifically about the needs and interests of business. It is critical for business that employees get to work and it is also critical for the employers to transport their output to wherever they are going, whether it be in Wales, the UK or anywhere else. As the Welsh Assembly Government has previously accepted, transport is the ultimate cross-cutting theme.

On that basis, the current funding arrangements do not meet the priorities. Whether the Minister accepts that or not, it is the view of the people who are directly affected by it, and that is also the view of the Wales Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry Wales, who in a recent joint letter—an unprecedented step—highlighted the transport deficiencies and the priority they expected to be given to so many transport policies.

The sad reality is that we claim that transport is the ultimate cross-cutting theme, but there is no funding to follow that laudable commitment.

The letter from the CBI and TUC highlights the difficulties that the manufacturing industry is facing in that regard, which is contributing to the negative impact on the industry.

An urgent question was tabled today about the difficulties that the Chubb factory in Ferndale is facing. In addition, the Assembly's manufacturing task and finish group recently recommended key traffic improvements with regard to improving competitiveness.

I accept the need to get people out of cars and on to public transport, but that cannot happen unless there is an effective public transport network.

That will take time to implement, and of course we must consider the road building and infrastructure programmes that are needed in the interim period until that is done, and the road building programmes that are needed for public transport systems such as buses, in order to better link cities and other key locations around Wales.

I welcome the Minister's comments in relation to the Brynglas tunnels.

He highlighted the difficulties, but he offered no commitment in terms of the timescale to address those issues. We are approaching the time when Wales will host the Ryder cup, when pictures of Wales will be beamed around the world, and I have a terrible fear that there will be gridlocked motorways around the Celtic Manor resort, and that will be the legacy of the Ryder cup in Wales, rather than an efficient transport network.

Even if the Minister committed the funding today, the work would not be completed in time for the Ryder cup. That will produce a negative effect and the great marketing opportunity that the Ryder cup offers Wales will turn into a negative story.

The Minister even mentioned the A465 and said that the work would not be completed until 2017, if I heard him correctly—one of my colleagues asked whether he had said 2017 or 2070.

It might as well be 2070, because 2017 is much too far away in terms of resolving the difficulties. The express road to Cardiff international airport is another issue that we have sought to highlight on several occasions.

The Minister has said in the past that it is not a trunk road, therefore it is not his problem, but, strategically, it should be a trunk road.

That road is now being trunked and we welcome that move. I also welcome the Minister's approach, but unless he intends fitting the road into the trunk road programme that is currently scheduled to end around 2015, what hope is there of getting the road to a standard that will enable Cardiff Wales airport to develop more quickly?

In reality, the Minister has many powers now, and he could resolve many of these issues. He does not need the new Transport (Wales) Bill, but he is using it as a smokescreen to say that he will consider the issues after the Transport (Wales) Bill is passed, giving additional legislative powers to the Assembly."

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