Whenever the weather is bad, and I find myself in rather than out I usually quietly give thanks to the fact that I am not having the travel along the A4042 - having spent enough time travelling from Pontypool through Mamhilad and Goetre and on to Abergavenny (via Llanelen) in all seasons, all sorts of weathers and at all sorts of hours, I am now pretty familiar with the road, its limitations and its accident black spots.
When heading from north to south from Pontypool, through Mamhilad where the duel carriageway ends, the passing motorist is presented with a number of particularly dangerous accident black spots that regularly take lives and cause serious injury. Gwent Police were absolutely right when they requested that to the Welsh Assembly Government give serious consideration to building a roundabout at the dangerous Little Mill junction.
I have over the years seen the aftermath of far too many accidents on the A4042 at the Little Mill junction. Moving north towards Goetre, the road once you get up the hill, is increasingly windy and on dark nights, in bad weather as well as in good weather quite treacherous, there have been too many bad accidents along this stretch of highway, which carries a significant amount of HGV traffic as well as ordinary motorists. I have seen the Police hard at work in the pouring rain brushing the broken glass of the road too many times, or have been halted by a patrol car with its lights flashing to bring traffic to a halt after yet another bad accident.
As a trainee journalist on the Pontypool Free Press (in the late 1980’s) I can remember the complaints and concerns from residents then and can recall the results of road accidents. However, it's not just the stretch of the road between Pontypool and Goetre that causes problems, I can recall my news desk dealing regularly with regular news stories relating to flooding and accidents at Llanelen Bridge on the A4042 between Pontypool and Abergavenny.
I have personally lost track of the number of times that my journey to and from Abergavenny and the north west of Monmouth constituency have been stopped or diverted by the Police and other emergency services dealing with the consequences of yet another traffic accident. Now this is nothing new, the problems along the road between Little Mill and at Llanelen had been clearly identified when Gwent County Council still existed (and that was pre 1992) and there have been far too many accidents since, over the years - the question is now no so much what will be done as when will something be done, before the grim toll of accidents is added too.
Further north the area around Llanelen Bridge has long been prone to flooding as well as being recognised and well known as a pretty lethal accident black spot; all we have had over the years is talk about sorting out the problems, but, never any action to resolve the problem. We have to ask ourselves; as we approach potentially another season of long dark winter evenings, is how many more lives will be lost or broken before any action is finally taken? For how much longer must we put up with inaction before anything is actually done to solve the problem and save lives?
The increasingly inadequate A4042, which might once (if we were lucky) have benefited from some minor improvements, is going to fall way down the list of spending priorities (if it is even on the list) as the UK Government is in the process of looking to make significant savings to its capital expenditure programme which will be passed in due turn down the line to the National Assembly in Cardiff and on to our local authorities.
There are no quick fixes, and no easy answers, one thing that seriously needs to be done is to get road 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 lasting side effect of the wholesale butchery of our rail network in the 1950's and 1960's - fifty years ago the communities that now lie along the A4042 (and elsewhere in Wales) were reasonably well served or had reasonable access to the rail network with railway stations at Little Mill, Nant-y-derry and Pen-pergwm - no long gone.
Now the privatised rail passenger carrying companies pursue maximising their profits at our expense in exchange of regular fat payments to the UK Government and the provision of an increasingly disjointed and increasingly minimalist service to boot. Little in relation to this changed during the thirteen years of New Labour Government and in relation to the Con Dem's we had better brace ourselves of even less change and little improvement when it comes to provision of a decent rail service.
Now not being naive I fully expect a degree of indifference from a distant Westminster and Whitehall, but, I and many other people expect our politicians in Cardiff to take a different view, even with the National Assembly's relatively limited powers and its soon to be reduced budget. We can do better, we have to do better here in Wales, because no one else will, no one else will care or even try. Ironically, if Government in both London and Cardiff was really serious about cutting carbon emissions and seriously reducing road congestion then there would be far 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,but, sadly it appears to be lacking south of the border, which is something that has to change over the next few years. Even with limited resources and limited powers we in Wales should be able to make a real and lasting difference to our communities - if our elected politicians at all levels are there to merely fill the seats and are not prepared to try then its time to replace them with people who will serve and help their communities rather than serve and help themselves.