Mark Drakeford: Road connecting north and south Wales would be 'dreadful'

Building a road connecting north and south Wales would be a "dreadful, dreadful thing to do", the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford ruled out the possibility of a new network linking the two areas, saying that building a dual carriageway would destroy landscape that had been there for "thousands of years" in the process.

Speaking to For the Many Podcast with LBC presenter Iain Dale and former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith at the Edinburgh Festival, Mr Drakeford said that roads would not be built to solve short-term traffic problems.

"The fact is, we will not go on repeating the 70 year mistake of thinking that the way to deal with traffic is to build new roads, because we know that that simply does not work," Mr Drakeford said.

"We will build roads whether our safety reasons for doing so, we will build roads where there are new compelling cases for economic purposes.

"What we will not do is think every time you have a traffic problem, the answer to the problem is to build a new road."

Instead, the First Minister said that money would be diverted into improving the roads Wales currently has.

"It would be a dreadful, dreadful thing to do, because it would inevitably go through some of the most sensitive landscapes in the whole of Wales.

"It would destroy, in the process of doing so, things that have been there for thousands of years.

"Who are we today - because we have some short term interest to get to north Wales half an hour faster than you can do anywhere - [to] take into our hands a decision that will have an impact of that magnitude? We will definitely not be doing that."

Mr Drakeford also defended decisions to introduce new 20mph speed limits in Wales. The Welsh Government decided to lower the limit from 30mph to 20mph in built-up areas to reduce accidents, noise and to encourage people to walk or cycle.But the controversial plans have seen over 21,000 people sign a petition to scrap the change.

"I'm very pleased indeed that we are introducing this," Mr Drakeford said, adding: "There will be a measurable reduction in number of children killed in Wales as a result of this policy and it returns the streets to the people who live [there]."

The Welsh government decided to lower the limit from 30mph to 20mph in built-up areas last year Credit: PA

Last month, Rishi Sunak ordered a review of the rollout of low-traffic neighbourhoods as the Prime Minister said he was on the side of motorists. But Mr Drakeford said he thinks the Prime Minister is "wrong."

In his time as First Minister, Mr Drakeford has dealt with Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak as Prime Ministers.

Speaking on the podcast Mr Drakeford recalled the day Theresa May lost her first vote in the House of Commons on her Brexit deal, saying that he had a two-minute phone call from her at 10pm that night.

"She thought it was important enough on that very difficult day to make contact with the First Ministers of the other nations of the United Kingdom," he said.

"I just think that tells you something about her sense of respect for the way in which the current United Kingdom should operate - and that was absolutely not true of her two immediate successors."

Mr Drakeford spoke of his admiration of Scotland's former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Credit: PA Images

He also spoke of his "admiration" for Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. He recalled a meeting with himself, Ms Sturgeon, and Theresa May in a room in the House of Commons "within the depths of the Brexit despair."

"We were taken into a room and left in there for some time and there was a big picture of [Margaret] Thatcher dominating the wall," he said.

"I remember saying to Nicola, 'I'm sure we've been put in here deliberately. This is either designed to undermine our morale before we have a meeting, or to see which one of us will take a pencil and deface the portrait before anybody else,'" he joked.

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