Saturday, May 19, 2007

Out on a Limb

One thing you have to become accustomed to when living in Anglesey is that, unless you have come here from North West England or another location in North West Wales, it is a long journey when you wish to travel long distance. You see, living in the North West with its excellent infrastructure of motorways makes it easy to go anywhere north, south, east or west. From time to time we wanted to drive to Devon to see Pauline's mum. As we lived in Milnrow, just off Junction 21 of the M62, we had motorway all the way to Exeter and then good fast dual carriageway to Newton Abbot.
According to Tom Tom sat-nav the best route from Anglesey is to take the A5 through Betws y Coed and Llangollen and then on past Oswestry & Shrewsbury to join the M54 and link up with the M6 at Junction 10A before turning off at Junction 8 for the M5. Recently my mother in law was very ill and died. This meant that we ended up driving to Devon and back three times. It was hard going, I can tell you. Eventually we took a different route after the A5 had driven us to distraction. There are two versions and we tried them both. One is to take the A55 and turn off towards Mold and Wrexham at the first junction with the Chester Bypass section of the A55. You then travel following signs taking you to Oswestry and then link up with the A5. The second is to take the A55 to its junction with the A483 and then follow the signs again to Oswestry. The mileage is longer but you can drive faster on a dual carriageway and not drive yourself mad with the twists and turns of the A5. From Penysarn in Anglesey to Llangollen is no less than 77 miles completely using single carriageway roads apart from a short bit of the A55 near the Britannia Bridge.
I can do the A55 journey to Manchester in less time than I can get to Llangollen and the mileage is about 50 extra! A few months after we had arrived in Anglesey I needed to get to Talgarth near the Brecon Beacons. It turned out to be a 4 hours journey along unending single carriageway roads. The main down through Wales is the A470. Because of the mountains the roads tend to be long and winding. The result is that when people in North West Wales wish to visit South Wales the journey puts them off. This is the reasoning behind the newly introduced flights from Anglesey Airport (RAF Valley) to Cardiff Airport. There are two flights each day in each direction Monday to Friday. The flight takes 65 minutes and the aircraft, fully loaded, takes 18 passengers. You will not be surprised that already a feasibility study done by Bangor University advocates introducing flights to Dublin.
I feel sure that anyone in North West Wales can make good use of the Anglesey to Cardiff flights. Do not forget that Cardiff Airport now serves many different worldwide destinations. I have worked it out that I can travel to many European destinations and back using the two airports. The cost comparison with Manchester Airport shows very little difference but this takes no account of the stress of travelling which is reduced if the first airport is not too far away. Again, when we lived in Milnrow it took us 35 minutes to get to Manchester Airport, so it is useful to have access nearby.
Having said all this, there is still a case for the Welsh Assembly to blast a decent road through Mid Wales to link north and south. I realise it is an expensive venture but it is vital for industry to come to Wales and make a profit. Don't forget that on a day when a single vehicle incident completely closes the A470 that industry has to pay out in an all too competitive world. What I am saying is that there is a strong case from a communications and economic point of view. How do you attract jobs to rural areas? Build a decent road.
Another matter which is a recent hot potato is the planned closure of Wylfa Power Nuclear Power Station in Anglesey. Additionally, we might also lose Anglesey Alluminium who get cheap electricity direct from Wylfa. We are looking into the abyss right now as far as the island's economy is concerned. Part of the planning for the next era needs to be that road through the middle of Wales. If industry is offered bad communications they will not come to Anglesey. The advent of the North Wales Expressway has shown what a good new road can mean. It caused quite a number of small hotels to close now that Anglesey is a day trip from Manchester or Liverpool. That means it is good for the transportation of goods made locally. I am sure that there are many companies who rejoice in the ability to move goods from Ireland through Holyhead Port and along the A55. But they also need a road serving the whole of Wales and beyond. I am talking survival here.


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