Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, has reiterated the point that roads such as the M4 and A55 are 'UK-wide assets'.

Speaking to journalists in a UK Government lobby briefing, the secretary was asked about his reaction to the Welsh Government’s decision to shelve all new road building projects in Wales.

The decision means plans for new roads will be frozen for the time being while an independent panel conducts a transport review.

In response, Mr Hart said: “I don’t think it fits with the agenda [for economic recovery] particularly comfortably.

“We are looking at ways in which we can kickstart the economy, that requires investment in road and rail.

“If we are serious about trying to ween people off the need for a foreign holiday, we need a road network that supports that, not to mention the construction jobs associated with road build projects.

“It seems to me to be putting a break on economic recovery, and it will leave one or two people feeling a little mystified.”

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The Welsh Government’s decision ties in with its commitment to putting climate change related considerations at the centre of all future decision making.

The last Government had already taken the decision to scrap its pledge to build an M4 relief road near Newport, while a £300m scheme set to link the A55 and A494 in the north is now in doubt.

Wales’ deputy climate change minister, Lee Waters, said the move marked the beginning of a cultural shift away from the car and towards more sustainable alternatives.

Highways and transport are a devolved issue, however the UK Government has previously expressed a desire to intervene in road building in Wales, with Simon Hart previously saying he 'won't rest' until the M4 relief road gets built.

The latest line from the secretary of state appeared to fire a further warning shot to the Welsh Government. 

“We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking the M4 or A55 are just Welsh roads,” Mr Hart continued.

“They are as important to people on the English side of the border and they are UK wide assets. If we are not able to improve them, then we are not just impeding economic recovery in Wales, but also the rest of the UK and beyond,” he continued.

“[The decision] is a pity, I’m assuming they are looking through this as net zero, but that doesn’t rely on a total freeze on road infrastructure in Wales.”

“We are just coming out of 16 months of extraordinary economic pressure, and it just feels like the wrong attitude. We should be straining every sinew to make things quicker, easier and more efficient.”

The UK Government may talk a strong game on levelling up and straining every sinew, but decisions such as shelving electrification of the rail line between Cardiff and Swansea in 2017 live long in the memory of Welsh Government ministers.

With freeports, rail projects and the decisions about road building due to rumble on, do not expect this to be the last skirmish between Cardiff Bay and Westminster on infrastructure.

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