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Railwatch 084 - June 2000

Too Menai lorries

By David Sallery

There is no satisfying the road lobby in North Wales. Even while the A55 dual carriageway is still under construction across Anglesey, there have been calls for a third road bridge to be built over the Menai Strait to cope with growing traffic levels.

At its AGM in April, the RDS branch passed a resolution deploring the claims that another bridge is needed. The new A55 will generate traffic itself, and a third bridge would worsen the pollution and the damage to Anglesey's economy (already one of the poorest parts of Wales).

Investment is urgently needed to enable rail to play its part. The resolution points out that the more traffic that uses the A55 (including a rapidly growing number of lorries using North Wales as a landbridge between Ireland and England/Europe), the more the taxpayers of Wales, one of the poorest countries in Europe, will have to subsidise the economy of Ireland, which now has record economic growth.

The new A55 is being built under the Private Finance Initiative, and the Welsh Assembly will pay a toll for every vehicle using it for decades to come. Most of the traffic that will be generated by the new road will add to traffic on the A55 in North East Wales, already a very busy road. Wales will not gain economic benefits from the extra traffic but residents will suffer the problems of congestion and pollution.

The station car park at Holyhead is being destroyed to make room for the new A55. The branch is extremely concerned about the effect the new road will have on the numbers of people travelling by train on Anglesey and has called for immediate restoration of the railfreight terminal at Holyhead (closed in the 1980s). Transfer of freight from trains to ferries would create new jobs at Holyhead and the whole of the North Wales Coast area would benefit from less lorry traffic and pollution if the freight passed through on the railway.

The branch also called for future transport funds to be spent on rail instead of yet more roads, including a bigger loading gauge to allow piggyback trains, increasing the line speed to 100mph between Crewe and Holyhead (present plans are for 90mph from Crewe to Bangor), and a new passenger service between Llangefni and Bangor, possibly extended to Chester and Amlwch.

Transport capacity across the Menai could easily be increased in future, if necessary, by restoring double track on the Britannia Bridge. At present there is only one track for both directions.

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