Thursday, 29 July 2010


News that the residents concerns about the noise and pollution levels caused by HGV's vehicles (on the A472) taking a short cut through the centre of Usk, while being of importance are nothing new. As a Trainee journalist on the Pontypool Free Press, I can recall this problem was a contentious issue in the late 1980's. Gwent Police, Monmouthshire council (the nominal successor to Gwent County Council in Usk at least) and Usk town council are still trying to resolve this problem.

I also remember that in the late 1980's a by-pass was offered by developers, controversially linked to proposed plans to build large amounts of housing in and around the town. This proposed development caused some controversy and headlines and letters in the Free Press at least at the time, but, nothing (and rightly so in my opinion)came of it.

The problem has not gone away, it's even worse than it used to be, as over the last twenty years the HGV's have got larger and far more frequent and damage is being done to Usk (and the river bridge) not to mention the increase in noise and pollution in the town, which affects residents, something that will also help to deter visitors to the town. The current 7.5 tonnes weight limit warmings which are being regularly flouted and any resultant fines are not working.

Most people know that there are periodic exceptions to the weight limit and the road traffic orders restricting weight limits are difficult to enforce. The short cut through Usk (from the A449) avoids using the A40 from Raglan to Abergavenny and the A4042 which has well known traffic related problems of its own, to save a few miles. The use of Sat-navs also causes problems by directing lorries through the town
rather than alternative routes.

The issue continues to rightly generate more than reasonable concerns amongst the residents of Usk, there have been recent and not so recent public meetings to address public concerns about the bridge and air pollution in the town. A number of different solutions have been proposed over the years, but, in truth nothing has been done to solve the problem.

The bad news is with the UK Government looking to make significant savings to its capital expenditure programme (which will be passed on down the line to the National Assembly in Cardiff and our local authorities) any suggestion of a by-pass will be a non starter. Even over the short term, with extra police patrols and road blocks may not necessarily survive the cost cutting that's going to descend upon Gwent Police (and the other forces in Wales).

There are not quick fixes, and no easy answers, one thing we need to do is get freight back onto rail and off our roads, far too much freight is being moved long distances by HGV's along roads which are entirely unsuitable for such volumes of traffic. This is one side effect of the wholesale butchery of our rail network in the 1950's and 1960's.

If Government in both London and Cardiff is really serious about cutting carbon emissions and reducing road congestion then much more emphasis on getting heavy goods back onto our railways, Now lets be honest this is not a quick fix and it may not be cheap but it can be done if the political will is there, as has happened in Scotland, where there is a useful combination of the will, the funding and interested private partners.

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