Third Menai crossing: minister says business case ‘weakened’

Artist’s impression

The Economy Minister has warned plans for a third Menai crossing could be at risk.

Ken Skates admitted the buisness case for a new bridge linking Anglesey and the mainland had been weakened by the suspension of Wylfa Newydd.

Last month, the UK Government postponed its decision on whether to give planning permission to developers Horizon for the £12 billion nuclear power plant.

But Mr Skates insisted that the new crossing was still part of the Welsh Government’s infrastructure programme and they remained optimistic it would go ahead.

Work on a new bridge is due to begin in 2021, after former First Minister, Carwyn Jones, announced its preferred option for a new bridge, built alongside the existing Britannia Bridge.

A joint study was also carried out with National Grid on whether the crossing would be able to carry power cables linking the Wylfa substation with the mainland electricity network as part of the so-called North Wales Connection.

Mr Skates told the Daily Post that Hitachi’s decision to suspend work on Wylfa Newydd had made the buisness plan for the crossing more difficult – because their proposals were based on extra traffic linked with the nuclear project.

He said: ”A business case has to stack up – we have to account for the money we spend on infrastructure projects. That business case is not as strong without Wylfa Newydd.”

In a later interview with BBC Wales, Mr Skates that the weakened business case was ”not to say it doesn’t stack up and makes it less likely…we’re hopeful that we will be able to proceed as planned, in the timeframe we’ve outlined.”

A Development Consent Order (DCO) for Wylfa Newydd was expected to be granted following a six-month inquiry.

But Buisness Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, said she wanted more evidence on the potential impact of the project, including environmental concerns. A decision is now expected by the end of March 2020.

Even if planning permission is granted, Hitachi will still need to have funding in place for the project.

Reacting to Mr Skates’ comments, Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid) said he was told by Welsh Government ministers that the case for a third crossing was ”as strong as ever” following the suspension of Wylfa Newydd.

He said: ”Yes, Wylfa would have resulted in extra traffic on the existing crossings, and of course that is a factor in the plans for the third crossing, but the truth is that there are serious questions regarding the resilience of the current crossings.”

”On too many occasions, the connection between Ynys Mon and the mainland has been cut off, or has been at risk of being cut off, and the emergency services have always argued that these crossing must be stronger, and that is the main reason for a third crossing.”< ”Although the Wylfa Newydd project has been delayed, I still believe in pushing for extra investment from National Grid towards the cost of a third crossing, as hundreds of millions is currently invested in undergrounding cables through national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.”

Mr ap Iorwerth added: ”The truth is that the wires across the Menai negatively affect one of the most beautiful areas in Wales, and investment should be provided to ensure that those cables do not affect the area in such a way. The way to do that is to put them on the bridge, and that should happen whatever happens with Wylfa. (The) Welsh Government must push for that investment.”

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