8. Welsh Conservatives Debate: Transport

– in the Senedd at on 17 April 2024.

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(Translated)

The following amendments have been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Heledd Fychan, and amendment 2 in the name of Jane Hutt. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendment 2 will be deselected.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 5:52, 17 April 2024

(Translated)

The next item is the Welsh Conservatives' debate on transport, and I call on Natasha Asghar to move the motion. Natasha Asghar.

(Translated)

Motion NDM8538 Darren Millar

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Believes the Welsh Government’s transport policies for Wales are not fit for purpose.

2. Regrets the north and south transport divide in Wales, with £50 million allocated to the North Wales Metro, and over £1 billion to the South Wales Metro.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government to urgently:

a) undertake a review of the current road-building tests with a view to implementing all previously scrapped schemes that will boost economic growth or enhance road safety;

b) reverse the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Wales) Order 2022 and adopt a targeted approach to 20 mph speed limits in Wales; and

c) invest in public transport to make buses and trains more competitive with travelling by car.

(Translated)

Motion moved.

Photo of Natasha Asghar Natasha Asghar Conservative 5:52, 17 April 2024

Thank you so much, Presiding Officer. I'm pleased to move this motion today, which aims to see the Welsh Government accept responsibility for past failings in the transport sector, and review policy areas in order to provide a much-needed boost to our infrastructure and economy.

Firstly, I would like to start by congratulating the Cabinet Secretary on his new role. I very much look forward to working with you in a productive manner to improve transport across Wales moving forward. I do believe, sadly, that you have inherited a really sorry state of affairs when it comes to transport here in Wales. I am in frequent contact with people right across our country who sadly are not getting used to these policies, as many Ministers have indeed claimed in the past, and they are still as despondent as ever, if not more so than before, considering the strength of public opinion that has been ignored and swept under the carpet time and time again.

It will be no shock to anyone in the Chamber that, on this note, I am going to start with the default 20 mph speed limit policy. Cabinet Secretary, it was incredibly positive to hear your priority when it comes to the 20 mph policy, and that is that you are going to be listening. I was also pleased to hear that you have reached out to leading protesters, in fact, the leading protesters of the 20 mph groups to arrange a meeting, and it's refreshing to hear of this real positive action that's going to be taking place—not just words—right from the get-go, and the willingness that you've had to have those much-needed open conversations.

As you will be aware, this policy has been hugely unpopular throughout Wales, especially when considering the record-breaking petition to rescind it, which has reached just shy of 0.5 million signatures. I've seen some Members in this Chamber roll their eyes, but almost 0.5 million people signing a petition against this policy when the population of Wales is just over 3 million is an extortionate amount, and cannot be ignored.

This takes me to my second point: as far as I can see, there is no evidence anywhere in the world of 20 mph limits solely reducing casualties or collisions on the road. When there are indeed reductions in the speed limit, such as 20 mph zones, there are other factors that could and would be responsible for mitigating the impacts of reducing casualties in collisions. We must also take into account that the threshold for 20 mph zones in Wales is 10 per cent plus 4 mph and, therefore, only 4 mph below the original default limit of 30 mph. This means that many of the positive impacts of driving at a speed 10 mph lower have been dampened down by the increased flexibility and confusion about the extra 4 mph. As I have said on numerous occasions in this Chamber in the past, there are many better ways to educate and improve road safety then spending £33 million of taxpayers' cash on a potential 4 mph change, and, at times, not even that.

I've also heard from countless constituents that the change in speed limits has in fact caused increasingly dangerous driving, with sudden braking and tailgating indeed seeing a huge rise, and the numbers seem to be going up and up. We must also address unintended consequences of the default 20 mph limits, with pedestrians and cyclists feeling safer and taking less care when crossing roads because of this. Indeed, frustration and dangerous driving, overtaking and many drivers paying more attention to their speedometers rather than the road in front of them are happening more and more.

And finally, Cabinet Secretary, I must address the figure of £92 million, which was quoted by the Welsh Government as how much would be saved by the NHS as a result of this policy. Sadly, very limited evidence is indeed in place as to how this figure was actually calculated and has been released to me and, indeed, to the public. This is an incredibly difficult notion to quantify, and we are unlikely to ever know what specifically caused the accident or what the travelling speed was compared with the impact of speed, for example. Also, the information currently available on this figure is very vague. So, will you please commit to publishing a detailed breakdown of how it was reached, in a bid to be more transparent and upfront, not just with me, but with the public as well? I would certainly agree that we need to reinforce education for both pedestrians and drivers about safety and control on the roads. Driving slowly does not wholly represent control, and we all know that reaction times and awareness have a huge part to play too.

This brings me nicely to the Welsh Government's decision to axe all major road building. We all know that investment in infrastructure brings economic growth, prosperity and connectivity, which each and every single one of us here wants to see. We also know that by stopping all new major road projects across Wales, the exact opposite has been happening over the past three years. This is bad enough when noting the state of our roads and the congestion across south Wales, let alone when noting the condition in the north.

As a Member for south-east Wales, I am very shocked that I'm going to be saying this, but I do feel fortunate for my region, to an extent, that we do receive a larger share of investment from the Welsh Government when it comes to transport infrastructure. However, I cannot help but feel that this is unfair. Cabinet Secretary, I know that you hail from north Wales and have suggested that you would consider building new roads, so I'd really like to ask you today in front of everyone: do you have any specific projects in mind? And if so, do you have any particular timelines for these projects that you have spoken of in the past? We really do need to invest in our road network and see some signs of reintroducing these improvements and projects for the sake of our connectivity and growth, and in many cases for road safety too.

Our motion here today calls upon Welsh Government to invest in our buses and trains to make these public transport services more competitive than travelling by car. I recently visited Japan and was astonished to discover that their annual average delay per train is one minute, just one minute, when Transport for Wales, on the other hand, had a million minutes of delays last year alone. This represents a desperate need for the right investment and guidance to improve services for the sake of our commuters. Whilst we would all love to see an increase in active travel, cycling and walking are simply not feasible at all times for each and every single person in Wales, and we need to have a viable alternative to everyday use of our cars. I hope Members across the Chamber will support our motion today for the benefit of everyone in Wales, who deserve a better service and more understanding about the reality of commuting than what they have been receiving from the Welsh Government to date. Thank you very much.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 5:58, 17 April 2024

(Translated)

I have selected the two amendments to the motion. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendment 2 will be deselected. I call on Delyth Jewell to move amendment 1.

(Translated)

Amendment 1—Heledd Fychan

Delete all and replace with:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Believes:

a) the Welsh Government’s transport policies for Wales are not fit for purpose;

b) the lack of connectivity between north and south Wales is a regrettable consequence of the fact that decisions about transport are made and controlled by people outside Wales;

c) the lack of connectivity between north and south Wales stems from historical and current failures to invest in intra-Wales journeys; and

d) resolving issues within the Welsh transport network will only be possible by devolving all powers over transport to Wales.

2. Calls on Welsh Government to:

a) reconsider its decision not to launch a legal challenge against the UK Government’s decision to designate HS2 an England and Wales project;

b) act with haste to implement the continuous review of the impact of the new speed limits, as previously agreed by the Senedd’s vote in favour of NDM8347 as amended, on 13 September 2023;

c) prioritise fair funding for buses that places bus funding on an equitable basis to rail funding; and

d) work with the UK Government to devolve all powers over transport to Wales.

(Translated)

Amendment 1 moved.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 5:58, 17 April 2024

(Translated)

Thank you, Llywydd. I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss these important issues, and I’m grateful to the Conservatives for bringing forward this debate, and I move the amendment.

Major change is needed. We are not where we need to be when it comes to transport. And those paying the price are passengers, of course, today and tomorrow. Transport is all too often too expensive and difficult to access. In 2022, Sustrans found that 40 to 50 per cent of families spend more than 10 per cent of their income on running a car. We need to see fewer people using cars, but a lack of sufficient investment has meant that large numbers are dependent on their cars, because no alternatives are available to them.

The price of bus tickets has increased at the same time as services are being cut. Communities are being isolated. And underinvestment in our bus industry poses a significant risk to rural areas and the Valleys. Half of our stations are not accessible for disabled people. Our stations and the routes to them aren’t always safe for those made vulnerable by the way our society is planned. 

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 5:59, 17 April 2024

And where the train lines begin and end, where the roads run, that matters. The lack of connectivity between the north and south of Wales is a stark metaphor for how Westminster hinders our progress, because there can't be many other countries in the world where a journey getting from one end of the country to another means having to go first in the opposite direction via a different country. But that is what comes of decisions over transport being made by people outside Wales. We will never be the priority for Westminster, only a place to travel through on the way to another destination or, indeed, on the way to power.

Photo of Darren Millar Darren Millar Conservative

Transport has been devolved for a long time. Forget rail transport, for a second, what about roads? What about roads? Why haven't we got a better road connecting north and south Wales? Our roads are absolutely dreadful and your former leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was responsible for transport for a full five years, as Deputy First Minister and economy and transport Minister in this place, and didn't make any progress on addressing that problem at all. What do you have to say to that?

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru

Diolch, Darren. There are plenty of ways in which, as I've said, we're not where we need to be, and that is a failure of successive Governments to do enough on this policy. But, in terms of roads, if we look at where those major roads go to and from in Wales, they go through Wales; they're not for the people of Wales, it's to make journeys easier to get to and from the other ends of that—[Interruption.] But, if we look at those main arteries, this is a historical reason that goes back to where those journeys have always started, and I don't think—. And I really would take contention with the idea that you said, 'Forget about rail for a moment'. I will get onto that point exactly. All of this will only change when all decisions on transport are made for Wales in Wales. And, Darren, on this point, we have lost out on billions of pounds through paying for HS2 when not a mile of track enters our national borders. We have paid towards impoverishing ourselves and neither Sunak nor Starmer sees the need to right that wrong. Westminster, Darren, will always prioritise Westminster, never Wales.

Now, I would have expected the Welsh Government to do differently. Our amendment calls on the Government to reconsider its decision not to challenge this HS2 designation legally, not to pursue a case in the courts. Now, I understand that the Counsel General has told Rhun ap Iorwerth that this won't be happening. This cannot be the end of the line. Those billions would pay towards revitalising our transport infrastructure, building those connections, which Darren and I have just been talking about, within our own nation. That has to be reconsidered. If we want to get to where we need to be as a nation, we have to demand what we're owed, with the billions of pounds that Westminster owes us. Diolch.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 6:02, 17 April 2024

(Translated)

The Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport to move formally amendment 2.

(Translated)

Amendment 2—Jane Hutt

Delete all and replace with:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Welcomes the Welsh Government’s commitment to listening on a wide range of issues, including transport and connectivity.

2. Supports the Welsh Government’s approach which recognises:

a) the value Wales’s transport infrastructure, including roads, brings to our economy and society; and

b) that the Welsh Government can improve both the way it designs and builds new road infrastructure, and better maintain Wales’s existing road network.

3. Welcomes the Welsh Government’s recognition of the need to refine the implementation of 20 mph speed limits in Wales; including reflecting on the classification guidance, changing speed limits on some roads, and continued engagement with communities.

(Translated)

Amendment 2 moved.

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

Diolch, Llywydd. As we discussed earlier during our question sessions, climate change demands substantial change to our transport system here in Wales, and particularly we need a modal shift from road use to use of public transport and active travel, and that is an absolute driver, in the climate emergency, for transport policy here in Wales.

In south-east Wales, Llywydd, we've had the Burns commission and we now have the delivery unit, and that sets out plans for five new train stations in south-east Wales and associated works to support that. And that, then, would make a major contribution to getting traffic off the M4, easing the congestion and the associated problems. But that, of course, requires major investment. Rail infrastructure is not devolved and that money needs to come from the UK Government. So, when we hear Natasha Asghar, as we heard earlier, talking about problems with our rail service and the investment that's necessary, then we really need that investment to come from the UK Government, because they have the responsibility for rail infrastructure in Wales and we've had a paltry share of that investment compared to the rest of the UK. So, I very much hope that, when we get our UK Labour Government before very long, we will see that investment coming through and we can make the sort of progress that we will need to make after all these years of a lack of investment from the Tories at the UK level.

And with active travel, Llywydd, we need more consistency, I believe, across Wales. We need to make sure that all parts of Wales and all local authorities in Wales are really helping us make this change to active travel. I'm glad to say that, in Newport, we have an organisation called Momentwm, which provides cycle training and is helping that effort to get people cycling and, indeed, walking with the new routes that are available. One example of the difference it can make is that we need a new cycle route that links the Glan Llyn housing development with the nearby retail park. At the moment, that area is heavily congested on the roads, and I know many people who would use an active travel link to cycle and walk to the stores and shops but currently feel that they have no alternative but to use their cars.

Finally, on 20 mph, I can't believe how negative Natasha Asghar was. It would seem that it's not going to save lives, it's not going to prevent injuries. It's such a negative approach. The people I speak to recognise the value of 20 mph, but they want to see it on the right roads and appropriate roads, and that's what the review will deliver. People do want it. They want it in the right place.

Photo of Peter Fox Peter Fox Conservative 6:06, 17 April 2024

Connectivity across Wales is absolutely fundamental. It is fundamental to allow our businesses and families to get around. Residents living in the south of Monmouthshire have felt the impact of rising congestion as a direct result of Labour's failure to provide sufficient infrastructure, or to improve what is already in place. This is exacerbated by the economically damaging 20 mph limits on roads that just don't need them. Every day in Chepstow, for example, it completely gets gridlocked, mainly because it's the gateway to Wales and is the access point to and from the M4, with thousands of cars a day accessing the road network from Gloucestershire, via Chepstow, on the A48, which has been dropped to 20 mph. This is a clear example of where Labour's inaction has completely lacked foresight, and has left a town gridlocked and severely polluted as a result. Thanks to their road-building freeze and negative mindset about transport infrastructure, any hope for a bypass for Chepstow has been severely delayed. The town desperately needs a bypass, and it has to come forward. The Welsh Government needs to work with stakeholders and the UK Government to make it happen. It's a daily occurrence to see traffic congestion backing up from halfway across the old Severn bridge. It's almost a two-mile queue, and I was stuck in it twice last week. The Welsh Government had pledged at public meetings to put local traffic measures in place and to improve public transport to alleviate congestion, but talk is cheap and we still see nothing.

Llywydd, I used Chepstow as an example for this debate as a town desperate for infrastructure, but one that is ignored, like many other communities across Wales, by this Labour Government. The Government's desire to get us out of our cars, on to our bikes, or using our severely limited public transport is a wishful dream that ignores the reality of daily life and commerce. The new First Minister and Cabinet Secretary have an opportunity to change the dial. We need to see the shelved road schemes back on the table to boost the economy and get our congested roads moving once again. And the country definitely needs Labour to move to a targeted approach to 20 mph and scrap the current, ill-thought-out policy, as it is at the moment. I encourage all Members to support our motion. 

Photo of Carolyn Thomas Carolyn Thomas Labour 6:08, 17 April 2024

We need to prioritise investing in maintaining our existing highway infrastructure. It's rapidly deteriorating through ever-dwindling budgets over the last 14 years, further exacerbated by increasing floods. They are in a dire condition. The strategic road network in Wales alone has a £1 billion backlog, and it was estimated four years ago that locally maintained structures had a £1.6 billion backlog. With so many competing pressures on local authority budgets, and some having to make in-year savings, we need to go back to providing ring-fenced grant funding for highway maintenance, just as there was a couple of years back. I'm aware that one local authority had run out of funding last month for patching potholes and had to wait until April. Reactive maintenance of potholes is only a temporary measure. Highways need steady investment to avoid extensive and expensive reactive repair, closure and increased user risk.

I'm hoping that some of the active travel funding, which has trebled and is still ring-fenced as grant funding, can be used this year, as we cannot build many more designated cycle routes, which cannot be maintained, when cyclists are facing dangerous sunken gullies and potholes on roads, which is where the majority cycle. It's very different in north Wales and rural areas to areas such as here in Cardiff, and there has to be a balance.

Delivering public transport is expensive and has been hit by inflationary pressures. To level up the perception of the north Wales—south divide, I would like to see some pilots in north Wales as part of the north Wales metro. We could trial capped fares, targeted interventions regarding publicity and information, using 106 agreements from developers to give new residents a free integrated transport pass for a year—this has happened in Chester. A friendly and helpful bus driver and rail platform assistant is invaluable and makes all the difference between people having confidence to use public transport. For many over 60, concessionary passes are not being used, and there has been a fall in usage since COVID. So, with the help of the Older People's Commissioner for Wales, Age Cymru, local authorities and other organisations, there could be a targeted campaign to provide information, to give confidence, concentrating on an area.

Regarding 20 mph, we need to move forward in partnership with councils who have—. Sorry, going back to public transport—I missed a little bit off—I'd like to look at capped fares as well, going forward, to trial capped fares, and also maybe looking at young people as well.

Regarding 20 mph, we need to move forward in partnership with councils who have collated lists of roads to be made up, but are awaiting the new guidelines. They don't want to have to do TROs twice, and they need to be reassured regarding liability, should flexibility be applied to increase speeds regarding the character of the road. [Interruption.] I'm short of time.

I know we have a lot of urban development and interurban connectivity in north Wales, which is why many routes were captured within the new default speed limit. There are calls for 20 mph to be just in estates, but highway officers have told me 90 per cent of accidents are on main roads where there is heavier traffic, higher housing density, pedestrians and cyclists mixing with traffic. Many residents like the 20 mph where they live, but drivers are frustrated when there are long restricted stretches and no obvious reason. With the right guidelines, working with local authorities in partnership, we can get the right balance.

Photo of Ken Skates Ken Skates Labour 6:12, 17 April 2024

Diolch, Llywydd. I am very, very grateful to all Members for their valuable contributions today, and I very much welcome the opportunity to respond to the debate with something of a flavour of the transport policies and priorities that I'll outline in greater detail next Tuesday. Indeed, there are, I think, aspects of the Welsh Conservative motion that align with those priorities and that reflect much of what we've heard across the Chamber today.

It's now more than a year since the Welsh Government published its response to the roads review, and, of course, it's right that we reflect, take stock and take time to listen—to listen to each other, to our colleagues in councils, at Westminster, in town and community councils and, above all, to the citizens that we serve. Since the roads review was published, we've continued to build roads, and the work currently under way at Dowlais as part of sections 5 and 6 of the A465 dualling is evidence of that, as well as being, I think, an incredibly impressive piece of infrastructure from an engineering perspective. We will continue to build new roads, whether that's to address localised congestion, pinch points and poor air quality, to improve safety, or, for that matter, to adapt our road network to the kind of extreme weather that we're now seeing here in Wales with alarming regularity. We will build new roads.

But, above all, we will build better than before. We will do so in order to meet the obligations that the last Government rightly introduced to address the climate crisis. We'll build better than before by utilising new construction techniques being pioneered internationally that reduce embedded carbon, by reducing the impact on ancient woodland, as we're now seeing being implemented in Llanharan. And we'll also do so through designing in bus priority routes for better walking links from the outset of our designs.

And I've also been very clear that I want to listen on 20 mph. Since my appointment, I've been meeting with transport cabinet members and with local government leaders from across Wales. We've agreed to work in partnership in the coming weeks and months to deliver a national listening programme, to engage with elected representatives, with businesses, communities and citizens across Wales, including, in my view crucially, children. There is, I believe, a growing consensus in this debate that we can at least build from that 20 mph is right around our schools, hospitals, nurseries—

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 6:14, 17 April 2024

If I can cut across the Minister, an intervention is being sought by Andrew R.T. Davies. Do you want to take the intervention?

Photo of Ken Skates Ken Skates Labour

With pleasure, yes.

Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative

I welcome the Conservative back to the Government, and that's very pleasing to see. But could I just check with the Minister, as he talks about this conversation that he and the Government are having around 20 mph, what is the backstop for that conversation, because people do want to see a conclusion one way or the other, and, obviously, radical changes to the policy?

Photo of Ken Skates Ken Skates Labour 6:15, 17 April 2024

I say to Andrew R.T. Davies that next Tuesday I'll be making an oral statement on transport priorities, where I'll be outlining measures that will be taken in the coming weeks and months in regard to all matters related to transport, and particularly to 20 mph. But I must say again that I really strongly feel across the Chamber there is support for 20 mph in those areas where it's appropriate, especially where children and the elderly are at risk. I think in such areas it all makes sense, it all makes people feel safer. But we do need to make sure 20 mph is truly targeted in those places, as we always promised it would be. And we'll need to work exceptionally closely with our partners in local government, with town and community councils, and indeed citizens, in order to achieve that. Changes will be done with and for the communities that we all serve, with the voice of citizens right at the heart of all we do. 

The Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru both referenced public transport, and of course I recognise the need for continued investment. Indeed, I was part of the Welsh Government that first committed to wholesale transformation of our rail network in Wales, with £800 million investment in brand-new trains. It’s worth remembering that will put Wales near the top of the table when it comes to new trains, whereas in the past we’ve been near the bottom of the age profile with our fleet. Then there’s also the transformation of the devolved core Valleys lines, which will deliver a turn-up-and-go service, a metro service, which will undoubtedly transform lives across the region. And also—make no mistake about it—I want to see more investment in public transport in north Wales, including making sure that the UK Government are true to their word when it comes to investing in rail infrastructure, because it’s they, not us, who are wholly responsible for that.

But as I think everyone in this Chamber knows, comparing the development funding for north Wales with investment in the core Valleys lines is not comparing like with like, and that’s because ownership of the CVL has been transferred to us, so we have the powers to invest there. North Wales remains the sole responsibility of the UK Government in terms of rail infrastructure. Additionally, the Cardiff capital region city deal is investing in the transformation programme. The north Wales growth deal is not structured the same. It cannot fund equivalent rail projects and so we are completely reliant on the UK Government to provide all of the funding for rail enhancements that they themselves are responsible for. I hope to convince Ministers in Westminster to fund what the north actually needs, and I’ll work with them and others to deliver a bespoke transport network for the north as well as the south-west and mid and west Wales.

And I must say this: I desperately want to help to change the tone and tenor of debate on transport. I’m very pleased that opposition spokespeople have agreed to meet with me for regular discussions on how we can work more collaboratively, because as I’ve always said, we don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. I look forward to working with Members across the Chamber when it comes to developing solutions to transport challenges we face here in Wales. In that spirit, I recognise that the Plaid Cymru motion has some merit, too. It rightly identifies some of the deficiencies in the devolution settlement, and I agree that connectivity for north Wales is a priority issue, and that we must continue to review the impact of the 20 mph speed limit. But the solutions it suggests need further development.

I am determined to shape the future of transport as an economic and social enabler. I was humbled to be asked to take on this portfolio by the First Minister, because transport isn’t just about getting from A to B, it’s about connecting people to public services, work, education, to friends and family, and for leisure, and for tourism. This is the ethos that underpins my commitment to listen to people and communities in every part of Wales. We've sought to produce a Government amendment that recognises the common ground across the Siambr and demonstrates we are listening to the voices of Members here and to people right across Wales. I look forward to collaborating across this Senedd Siambr, and I hope that all Members feel today able to support our amendment. Diolch.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 6:19, 17 April 2024

(Translated)

Tom Giffard now to respond to the debate.

Photo of Tom Giffard Tom Giffard Conservative

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. Can I start by thanking the new Cabinet Secretary in his role, and welcome him back into Government on behalf of the Welsh Conservative group? Can I particularly welcome the tone I think he used in his response, which was much more constructive and conciliatory than we've been used to, quite frankly, on transport policy in recent years? I particularly welcome his reflection that he wanted to listen on 20 mph in certain areas. I think you cited hospitals and schools as being places where 20 mph tends to be sensible. That's been our position here on the Welsh Conservative benches for some time, and I'm glad to hear you say that as well, Minister. I also want to welcome you repeatedly saying at the beginning of your remarks that we will build new roads, and I think that will be a reassurance, I hope, to people like Peter Fox and his constituents in Chepstow who are looking for that assurance from a Welsh Government that will listen and will engage on this issue.  

Just to respond to a few points made in the debate, Natasha Asghar opened by saying that the Minister had inherited a sorry state of affairs, and, unfortunately, she's right. We've seen some of the anti-motorist measures that have been introduced by the Welsh Government in recent years. Professor Stuart Cole recently said that public transport facilities should have been put in before any other anti-motorist legislation, and he's absolutely right, because we need only look at the performance of Transport for Wales to see what public transport provision looks like here in Wales. We heard from the First Minister yesterday claiming it was the best-performing operator around, but the reality is they're ranked the worst in the UK for customer satisfaction, and that includes remarks about punctuality, reliability and service frequency.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour 6:21, 17 April 2024

Can you just elaborate on this anti-motorist legislation? I've not seen it yet, I've not heard about it. What are you talking about? 

Photo of Tom Giffard Tom Giffard Conservative

Can I suggest you speak to your constituents, who have raised a number of issues about the previous approach we've seen on road building, the previous approach we've seen on 20 mph, and the powers given to them in previous legislation for road charging in the future? I hope that that doesn't come to fruition and I hope that the change in approach referred to by the Minister today is a sign of things to come, but that is not what we have seen in recent years. 

Delyth Jewell mentioned, for some reason, that all of Wales's transport woes in recent years have been as a consequence of Westminster in some way, but those TfW figures that I've just read suggest that the problem isn't Westminster, the problem is the Welsh Government that they've been propping up for 25 years.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 6:22, 17 April 2024

I hope that you will correct the record. I did explicitly say that this had been the failure of successive Governments in Cardiff as well as in Westminster, and I did say quite a number of ways in which this needs to improve. But Westminster does owe us those billions. 

Photo of Tom Giffard Tom Giffard Conservative

I appreciate the point of clarity around the Government here in Cardiff Bay that you've obviously been propping up for a number of years, including serving in that Government. 

John Griffiths mentioned transport issues in Newport. I think if I spoke to his constituents, they would tell me that the biggest transport issue in and and around Newport is the cancellation of the M4 relief road. And we heard from Peter Fox that that is not the only project that has not been progressed that's causing issues in that part of the world, and the Chepstow bypass as well. I'm sure other Members will have examples in their areas of those transport projects that were not progressed with. 

Finally, Carolyn Thomas mentioned the condition of roads and potholes. That is a massive issue and Carolyn is absolutely right. So, I'm sure she will be as aghast as I am that the Welsh Government spent £33 million on signs to go next to the roads, rather than improving the condition of those roads in the first instance. 

I welcome the comments from the Minister today. I hope it signals a change in approach, a change in tack from the Welsh Labour Government as it comes to transport policy here in Wales, but I would urge Members today, to send that signal that things are changing, to support our motion.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 6:24, 17 April 2024

(Translated)

The proposal is to agree the motion without amendment. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Yes, there are objections. We will therefore defer voting until voting time. 

(Translated)

Voting deferred until voting time.