The Welsh Liberal Democrats Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, has expressed his disappointment that the Welsh Economy and Transport Minister is to keep junction 41 of the M4 closed at peak times, pending her final decision on the trial which is due in May or June.
In a letter to Assembly Members today, the Minister said that she has been advised by officials to continue the part-time closure following the end of the official trial yesterday until she receives a full report on the closure in two months’ time.
However, Mr. Black believes that this will just add to the problems facing Port Talbot, and that a golden opportunity to properly assess the impact of the average speed cameras on motorway traffic flows whilst the junction remains open will be missed.
"The fact is that this trial has been flawed from the outset," said Mr. Black. "Counts of footfall in the Aberavon Centre have consistently under-estimated the number of people using shops there, whilst the introduction of average speed cameras halfway through the trial has changed the basis on which traffic flows can be measured and meant that an objective analysis is now impossible. If the Minister had re-opened the junction for the next two months whilst she considered her options at least there might have been some semblance of a valid process."
The Welsh Liberal Democrats Parliamentary Candidate for Aberavon, Helen Ceri Clarke added: "This is the worst possible decision for Port Talbot. Peter Black and I met with the Chamber of Trade last night at which it was clear that the closure is hitting business. The Welsh Government’s own figures show that footfall has fallen off since the trial began, at least four shops have closed since Christmas and the Town is virtually deserted after 2.30pm as people seek to get home before being caught up in traffic jams.
"This trial has caused traffic chaos in Baglan and beyond and that is now set to continue. The Minister really needs to think again and open up the junction full-time before she does even more damage to the Port Talbot economy."