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Post  Admin on Wed 1 Oct 2008 - 15:05

This is the forum to discuss what sort of transport and communications infrastructure we will need to link various parts of Wales, and to link Wales with the rest of the world.

Most transport is by land, either by road or rail. Within the past fifty years or so the balance between the two has changed markedly in favour of roads. Yet, even so, Wales has two major east-west routes, but not much to link north and south. How should we look to improve this ... by one major motorway or dual carriageway, or by a network of improved roads?

To answer that question we also need to consider what our roads are for. We need to take a strategic overview of how we want to move people and goods around Wales. We might well take the view that the car has a limited future because of the cost of fuel and the size of our carbon tyreprint, so that we need to look at much better public transport that would make out roads less crowded. But on the other hand we might soon see a new generation of electric or hydrogen vehicles—if we can produce either cleanly—to solve that problem. We would need to look at the costs of building and maintaining roads, whether these should be paid for out of general taxation, specific fuel and vehicle taxes or by road usage. The model that we choose for urban areas might be very different from that for rural areas.

Either alternatively or in parallel we need to consider what sort of rail network we need. Do we need to invest in new lines or reinstating old ones? How do we increase speeds and capacity? Should we look at light rail or tram solutions in urban areas?

In international terms, how do we get high speed rail links to mainland Europe, or should we skip high speed rail and look at next generation rail technologies such as maglev? How to we deal with international traffic passing through Wales to and from Ireland? Should we make efforts to get freight traffic off roads and onto rail and should we invest in railports?

Are our seaports adequate and how should we develop them? How do we integrate them with the remainder of our transport network? What sort of airports do we need? Will we be content for our international air links to be through large hub airports in England? How can we handle visa control, immigration and asylum without one or maybe two major international airports on our own soil?

There is also room for lateral thinking. We might ask if better alternative forms of communication can reduce the need for physical transport. If we develop a better electronic infrastructure we may not need to make so many journeys because some of us can work form home, or work from satellite shared offices much closer to home. More flexible working hours might see the end of traditional rush hours and even out peak pressure on commuter routes, both road and rail. We might look at our planning strategies and change the emphasis from out of town retail and business parks that can only be reached by car in favour of more local development that can be reached by public transport, or by bike, or by walking.

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