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Seeking to solve South Wales’ transport network problems

23 February 2017

Cardiff Business School academics tackled a major topic of consternation, for businesses and communities, at the most recent Executive Education Breakfast Briefing (Thursday 9 February 2017).

The briefing, titled Building a 21st Century Transport Network in South Wales, was sponsored by Bruton Knowles, and delivered by Professors Anthony Beresford and Calvin Jones.

They addressed a mixed audience of business leaders, policymakers and property consultants, totalling almost 100, and looked at how Wales’ transport infrastructure is lagging behind the demands of 21st century business and community life. It was argued that this underdevelopment directly impacts economic and social conditions in Wales.

Professor Anthony Beresford offered an overview of the transport agenda, and infrastructure, in Wales, with particular emphasis on the development of the dialogue around the M4 relief road. He showed that this had been an area of debate since 1989 when the South Wales Area Traffic Study made recommendations for an M4 relief route.

Professor Beresford stressed that during the intervening years of inaction, a number of other infrastructure and road improvement works had been delivered across the UK, including completion of the M25, M60 around Manchester, the second Severn Crossing and the A55 in North Wales. He spent some time assessing the suitability of the road around Newport and argued that it doesn’t traditionally fit the criteria for designation as a motorway, given its lengthy bends and steep gradients. He also argued that recent improvement works were merely ‘tinkering’ and didn’t solve the basic issues of congestion and access. In conclusion, he indicated that while the M4 relief road may not answer all problems, economic and time pressures have resulted in the issue of a relief road becoming a priority of the current political agenda.

Professor Calvin Jones took the conversation in a different direction, arguing that looking at the M4 relief road in isolation was regressive. For Professor Jones, what is needed is the development of a holistic solution with key stakeholders working together to improve the transport network across the region. He also called for any infrastructure improvements to be affordable, inclusive, low carbon, futureproofed, integrated and fit for purpose.

Professor Jones, in line with Cardiff Business School’s Public Value mission, was keen to stress the need for infrastructure planning to properly consider health and well-being, as well as equality of access and benefit across socio-economic groups.

The Q&A which followed the hour-long briefing demonstrated the level of interest and debate in the issue of Wales’ transport network and its impact on economic development and social cohesion.

Sarah Lethbridge, Director of Executive Education at Cardiff Business School, said of the breakfast briefing: “The size of our audience and the engaging debate that followed Anthony and Calvin’s presentation proves how much of a hot topic the transport network in Wales is, and how the academic and business communities have a valuable contribution to make in finding a solution.

“I’m grateful for the level of engagement in our breakfast briefing series. Our attendance is reaching record levels. The aim has always been to offer a stimulating, informative and inclusive environment to share research, generate debate and tackle grand social and business challenges collaboratively. It’s heartening to see that this is resonating with a diverse audience.”

The next Cardiff Business School Executive Education Breakfast Briefing - DVLA’s Digital Motoring Journey: from Offices, Tax Discs and the Physical to Online, Digital and Invisible - will take place on Tuesday 28 March 2017. John Hewson, Service Manager at the DVLA, will be looking at the journey the organisation has taken to move from a paper and face-to-face business to one where a customer can go through their entire motoring life only dealing with the DVLA online. Register now.

For more information visit the School webpages.