Commenting on the final recommendations of the South East Wales Transport Commission, Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair and Wayne Harvey, CBI Wales Chair, said:
“Businesses in Wales will find much to welcome in today’s report, and we are pleased that as the two largest business organisations in Wales, we have had an opportunity to contribute to the Commission’s consideration
“For far too long, transport in and around South East Wales has been fractured, disjointed and ineffective, which has caused much frustration for businesses that need to move them, their people and their products around the region. The problems caused by congestion on the M4 have for so many years frustrated businesses and risked business growth and economic development
“We support the idea of businesses and citizens having access to a ‘network of alternatives’ to help remove traffic from the M4 and this is something that businesses have been keen to explore for some time. However, against a backdrop of several years of unreliable services that have made many commuters feel forced into their cars, for this to be successful in practice businesses will need to feel that they can have confidence in these proposals.
On the M4 and travel by car
“The first part of the connectivity approach in remedying the problems on the M4 must be need for political connectivity. There are important roles in these recommendations for both the UK, Welsh and local Governments and all these all owe it to the business community of South Wales to demonstrate shared purpose in adopting these proposals and taking them forward.
“It is important to note that for many businesses, road-based transport continues to be a significant way of moving products and people around the region and beyond. Businesses depend on and will continue for some time to depend on road transport. Therefore, using all of the tools we have available to alleviate congestion will help South Wales’ business community.
“Any discussion of levy for parking needs to provide alternatives for workforce commute first before penalising employers for lack of alternatives. We need to reflect the reality of how people are able to travel as we plan for the future and ensure that businesses are bought into the plans to influence a change to travel habits.
On the railway
“We strongly agree with the need to strengthen the ‘rail backbone’ of the region, which for many people does not currently present a viable option for commuting or travelling. Again, confidence in this network would be key to encouraging people to adopt active travel or use public transport regularly.
“Businesses will be concerned to read that the timescale for remedying the issues on the railways is set at the next ten years. Businesses are already dealing with inconsistent and unpredictable services and these issues need rectifying much more quickly if we are to meet the goals both of reducing congestion around Newport, as well as meeting our environmental aims. Whilst we appreciate that this is an ambitious set of recommendations that would take time to implement, we believe that this timescale is a cause for concern and would call on UK and Welsh Government to work together on how this could be reduced.
On what we need to do next
“There are significant recommendations within the report, and we would urge Sir Peter Hendy to consider them as part of his recommendations under the UK Government’s Union Connectivity Review as we feel these could form a significant contribution to that Review.
“We would urge all Senedd parties to buy into the proposals from this report, so that this can taken forward as an issue with political consensus ahead of the 2021 elections. They should be a priority for whomever forms the next Welsh Government
“CBI Wales and FSB Wales would recommend that a cross-Government Action Group be instituted incorporating UK and Welsh Government, local authorities and members of the business community to discuss how this can be taken forwards in a productive way.
“We hope that this report moves the conversation about solving these problems onto beginning to make the changes needed to resolve these issues and free up businesses to take even more advantage of the South Wales region.”