HC Deb 20 May 1998 vol 312 cc940-1
5. Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

What plans he has to improve trunk roads linking north and south Wales. [41417]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain)

Improvements are needed, and these will be addressed in our review of the Welsh trunk roads programme.

Mr. Paterson

The A483–A5 road, south through Ruabon on to Shrewsbury, is the main link between north-east Wales and south Wales. It is currently single carriageway; it is subject to frequent accidents and delays. In the past five years, 25 people have been killed on that road. What plans does the Minister have to upgrade the Welsh stretch to dual carriageway? What discussions has he had with his English counterparts? Given the Secretary of State's stated enthusiasm for the PFI initiative yesterday in the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, has he discussed that means of finance to speed up the project?

Mr. Hain

The previous Conservative Government, whom the hon. Gentleman supported, had 18 years to solve these problems, but I recognise the point that he raises. Indeed, I believe that, word for word, it is the point that he made a couple of weeks ago, when he served his apprenticeship to the boy Nigel in the Welsh Grand Committee in Carmarthen. I answered it then as I answer it now: we recognise that the problem exists, and we shall do our best to solve it.

Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways to improve road transport between north and south Wales is to take steps to remove cars and lorries from those roads? What steps can my hon. Friend take to ensure that transport links between north and south do not depend on roads alone, and, with other Departments, help to improve rail and air transport links, which are far more environmentally friendly?

Mr. Hain

My hon. Friend expresses the position exactly as I see it. The A470 and A483 clearly need to be upgraded to improve north-south links, but the priority for the moment must be to establish—I am working on this actively—better air and rail links, because those are the areas of public transport policy which will enable us to address what is otherwise a difficult problem.

Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnorshire)

Will the Minister take note of representations that I know he has received about the A483 on the boundary of my constituency with that of Montgomery? That important road is not even of trunk-road width and the planned improvements to it will not be completed for 12 months. Will the Minister do something to enable that work to be started much sooner so that we have a more effective north-south link?

Mr. Hain

I shall certainly consider the hon. Gentleman's point again. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State tells me that, if the hon. Gentleman drives slowly at that point in mid-Wales, he may see red kites, which are of great interest to people in Wales generally.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

As the Minister has just said that it is important to upgrade the A470, why has he apparently shelved phase 2 of the Blaenau Ffestiniog to Betws-y-Coed road improvement scheme? I am grateful for the first phase, but without the second phase it is nonsense. If the hon. Gentleman is serious about upgrading the A470, this is a priority, and I ask him for a positive response.

Mr. Hain

The hon. Gentleman has identified a clear problem which is well recognised in the Welsh Office. Will he await the outcome of the roads review to see what progress we can make on the matter?