Third Menai Crossing business case 'weakened'

Rhodri Clark

The Welsh Government has admitted that the business case for the Third Menai Crossing has been weakened after it failed to arrange a partnership finance deal with the National Grid.

The scheme is still in the devolved government's infrastructure plans however and while transport minister Ken Skates admitted that the crossing’s business case was weaker, he also told the BBC: ‘That’s not to say it doesn't stack up and makes it less likely.’ 

The news comes after the Welsh Government dropped long-held plans for its flagship £1.6bn M4 relief road, after spending £44m developing the project.

The Welsh Government said it was still expecting support from ‘external partners’ for the planned crossing, despite a major blow to hopes of the structure doubling up as a high-voltage cable route for the now suspended Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station scheme.

However, when Highways enquired as to who these partners might be, a government spokesperson could only say it would employ an architect and designers for the project.

As our sister site Transport Network reported in November 2016, the Welsh Government had started negotiating with National Grid over a shared crossing between Anglesey and the mainland for road vehicles and for the power cables for Wylfa Newydd.

Under the previous plans, National Grid would recover the cost of the cable connection from electricity bill payers.

However, development of Wylfa Newydd was suspended in January, in the absence of a funding agreement with the UK Government. Last month, the UK Government deferred a decision on planning consent for Wylfa Newydd for six months.

The Welsh Government’s updated Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan (WIIP) says the Third Menai Crossing scheme will start in 2022 and end in 2026 and be ‘financed and delivered by the WG in partnership with external partners’.

The WIIP gives an estimated scheme value of £130m, lower than previous estimates of up to £200m.

Asked why the estimated value had reduced and which external partners were expected, a Welsh Government spokesman said: ‘We will continue to engage with the Design Commission for Wales on the aesthetics for the bridge and are proposing to appoint technical advisors, a bridge architect and designers to progress and develop the preliminary design.’

Picture: A55 Britannia Bridge across the Menai. The new bridge would relieve the Britannia, possibly with one-way traffic on each.

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