Three years late and £110m over budget - so has the Heads of the Valleys road been worth it?

In October 2014, the then-Welsh Government minister for economy, science and transport, Edwina Hart, made a decision to turn the Heads of the Valleys road between Brynmawr and Gilwern into a dual carriageway.

The original plans would see it cost £190 million and be completed in 2017. The total closure of the road on a handful of weekends was also proposed.

In reality, it was very different. It was not completed until six weeks ago - more than three years over schedule. It cost a lot more than had been expected, too - it was a £110 million over budget. And there were many more weekend road closures than had been anticipated - probably ten times the amount residents had been told of at first.

But has all the construction chaos and extra money been worth it? Well, that is a debate people living in the local area are currently having.

Fay Rossini faced a few tough years of trade when the A465 closed on weekends during construction.

I visited businesses in Gilwern in January 2016, when the roadworks had already been going for a year. Fay Rossini, from Bromfield's Butchers, was about to have a baby. The baby is now six years old and in school. Fay faced a few tough years of trade when the A465 was shut altogether on weekends. She had hoped that custom would pick up now the road is finished and brand spanking new. But that has not happened, and she thinks that people from the Valleys in particular have found new destinations to do their shopping.

Local Conservative councillor Jane Pratt wonders whether Gilwern will ever recover from the impact of the dualling project. The design of the road, she believes, is a good one. But she says residents that she represents are not convinced that putting up with years of traffic nightmares will pay off.

  • Cllr Jane Pratt: 'I think residents will be questioning if the sacrifices have been worth it'

The Welsh Government believes it will help improve prosperity in the area and bring in an additional £400 million worth of spending into Wales.

But the road was intended to be - like other dual carriageways - a 70mph stretch. Though in the years that followed those initial proposals, Wales and the world became more climate conscious and aware of the impact of vehicle emissions on our planet. The Welsh Government declared a climate emergency on the 29th April 2019, and in the interests of the environment and road safety, said it decided to reduce the speed limit on the new stretch to 50mph. It is policed with the installation of fixed speed cameras.

Under the original plans, the road cost £190 million and was due to be completed in 2017. Credit: Welsh Government

Some transport experts, however, do not believe that this encourages investors from other parts of the world to bring business into Wales.

Professor Stuart Cole, Emeritus Professor of Transport at the University of South Wales, thinks that the A465 is a crucial link between West Wales and the Midlands - an area he says is the second biggest economic powerhouse in Britain. By failing to cut journey times from what they were before the dualling of the road began, he says, we have "missed an opportunity" to spark more employment in the Valleys - a part of Wales he says needs every job it can get.

So the A465 dual carriageway between Brynmawr and Gilwern, at least, is open and free from the queues and delays that dogged it for seven whole years. But the arguments about the positives and negatives of this scheme are not going anywhere yet.

Hannah will be looking at the current dualling scheme between Dowlais and Hirwaun on Tuesday (February 8).