14 May 2019
Lee Waters AM, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport
Crisis On All Fronts – Climate Chaos – Public Health decline – Destruction of the Natural Environment.
ADDRESS BY LEE WATERS, WELSH DEPUTY MINISTER FOR ECONOMY AND TRANSPORT.
Llywydd, we have a climate emergency, an obesity epidemic and an air quality crisis. Getting more people travelling in ways that improve their health, and our environment, is key to tackling those problems.
Transport accounts for 13% of Wales’ climate changing emissions, and almost all of them come from car.the private car. Our recently published low carbon delivery plan put achieving modal shift at its centre – and by that we mean making it easier for people to make fewer journeys by car by making it easier to use alternatives.
Most journeys are under five miles and can be walked or cycled.
Over half of all car journeys are for distances of under 5 miles. Many of these trips could be made by walking and cycling. That is why encouraging Active travel is a priority of this government.
But, despite having world leading legislation, in the Active Travel Act, and in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, we have not seen anything like the increase in walking and cycling we want and need. We have rehearsed the reasons for that under performance many times in this chamber.
Resources Are Key
Resources are key and I am pleased to say that this year – for the first time ever – we will be spending over £30m on Active Travel schemes in Wales in one year
Local authorities were informed last week of the funding they will be receiving to progress Safe Routes in Communities and Road Safety Grant schemes and they will be informed this week of the funding they have been awarded from the Active Travel Fund. ( See Funding Awards ed’)
But resources aren’t our only problem. The Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee report on the implementation of the Act made that very clear. We have a major issue with capacity and our approach to delivery.
ActIve Travel staffing under resourced at local level.
We often talk about austerity in this chamber but we sometimes don’t pay enough attention to the way it has hollowed out the capacity of our local authorities to deliver on anything other than essential statutory services. Active travel is an area where under staffing is felt particularly severely.
As well as capacity there are also issues about capability to deliver what is after all a change in behaviour and culture.
We have developed highly regarded guidance on how to design infrastructure which will make walking and cycling a more attractive option, but we need to do more to train and upskill professionals in its use. I can announce today that we will be setting aside some of the £30 Million to invest in improving skill levels, and spreading good practice.
Funding to Design and Plan.
I have met with most of the councillors and front-line officials who we are working with to deliver this project and listened to their concerns. A key one is that good active travel schemes can be complex and annual funding rounds make it difficult to deliver them.
So I will be making a total of £6.3m available to local authorities, on a pro rata basis. This will allow local authorities to design and plan schemes in advance of submitting full funding bids.
Resources will always be scarce and we must ensure that we invest in a way that maximises outcomes. We can’t afford to spread the jam so thinly that lots of communities get a bit of path but not enough to get them anywhere. We have to concentrate our resources on building routes that will allow people to make whole journeys to places they need to get to: in safety and comfort from their home to work, or school or the shops. Only then will we be able to convince significant numbers of people to change their travel habits.
I am prepared to take the flak for building fewer miles of route and in fewer places, if the routes we do build enable many more people to become active travellers.
Local Authorities Must Be More Ambitious.
Llywydd, we must reward ambition, but also, crucially, help those all authorities to become more ambitious.
We will shortly be starting a new round of consultations on local authorities’ plans for their active travel networks, the Integrated Network Maps. I want those consultations to be much more about encouraging non active travellers to think about what needs to change in their local community to get them walking and cycling. I don’t want to see random lines on a map that may score high on deliverability but do not create seamless networks that link people up with the places that they want to go.
I am setting aside money to fund a much more engaging approach to consultation so that the next iteration of the integrated network maps that Councils submit are based on the views of our target group – those who do not currently walk and cycle – and result in a pipeline of projects that will make a real impact.
Remove Poorly Designed Access Barriers.
Of course it’s not just about new routes, I want local authorities to use some of their new resources to identify those small changes in roads and paths that can make a big difference. Perhaps changing a roundabout or adding a crossing, widening a popular path or removing poorly designed access barriers, anything that they can demonstrate will lead to more people shifting their mode of transport.
Local authorities are therefore encouraged to use part of their allocation to fund small project that deliver ‘continuous improvements’ to their local networks.
In February, the whole Assembly backed a motion calling for more ambitious active travel targets. I will deliver on the promise I made then. But for those targets to be meaningful and impactful we must have effective monitoring schemes in place. I am working with local authorities to develop a much more systematic approach than exists at the moment.
20 MPH Default Speed Limit in Residential Areas
I have outlined the challenges I think we are facing, and they are many. However, I don’t think we should be pessimistic. We are starting to make some of the more difficult decisions that can radically change this agenda. The First Minister’s announcement last week that Wales will begin work to make 20mph the default speed limit in residential areas is a real game changer. Lower speeds will not only reduce casualties and improve public health, it will also create an environment that is more friendly to active travel.
As Ministers we have committed to working together to develop a high quality, multi-modal, low carbon and integrated public transport system across Wales. Improving our active travel infrastructure is a critical element of that vision. We have already begun work on a new Wales Transport Strategy, which will be central to realising this ambitious agenda and ensuring that active travel becomes a vital part of major infrastructure projects such as the Metro. My colleague Ken Skates and I will keep members updated on this work.
There is no sweep of the Ministerial pen, or single initiative, that can bring about the changes we need to see to reverse the transport trends we’ve seen develop over the last 50 years. It will take ongoing, granular efforts, focused on hundreds of different details, to create an active travel culture.
But if we want to improve air quality, increase levels of physical activity and lessen the harmful impacts of transport on our environment, we must dedicate ourselves to it.
Individuals and Communities Must Play Their Part……
I want to hear from you what more we should be doing and in particular your suggestions for communities in your area that you know want to be at the forefront of an ACTIVE TRAVEL REVOLUTION. (Lee Waters AM Deputy Minister for Economy & Transport)