Menai Bridge closure is a 'wake-up call' for a third crossing to Anglesey

Menai Bridge closure is a 'wake-up call' for a third crossing to Anglesey

Updated: 3 months, 15 days, 13 hours, 36 minutes, 39 seconds ago

The sudden closure of Menai Suspension Bridge should be a "wake up call" for Welsh Government over a third crossing between Anglesey and the mainland. Welsh Government announced on Friday that the historic Thomas Telford built bridge would be closed until potentially the end of the year.

As part of UK Highways A55 ongoing maintenance of the Menai Bridge, it was identified that further testing would need to be carried out on the bridge alongside the replacement of some of the hangers.

As a result of further investigation, serious risks have been identified and structural engineers recommended to close Menai Bridge to all traffic. It could be closed for up to 16 weeks.

READ MORE: What happens if Britannia Bridge A55 crossing shuts during closure of Menai Bridge to traffic

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Asghar MS criticised the decision to close the bridge suddenly - saying there should be scrutiny over the decision in the Senedd. Ynys Mon MP Virginia Crosbie said the"bridge should never have been allowed to get into a state where this kind of emergency response is necessary".

However, KeithJones, Director Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), said the Government had been right to take the decision to close - saying safety should always come first. However he criticised the fact progress has not been made on a third crossing over the Menai Strait.

The circa £130m project has been on the agenda for years but remains at the consultation stage. It is currently on pause thanks to the Welsh Government's roads review, with recommendations on numerous highways schemes expected at some point this autumn.

An additional crossing would ease pressure on the existing two routes and provide vital resilience for when incidents like this occur. Ynys Mon MS Rhun ap Iorwerth said this highlighted why that third crossing was needed.

Hangers on the Menai Suspension Bridge

(Image: ICE)

On their website Welsh Government still have it listed that the preferred route should have been chosen in 2018 and work started in 2020/21 and completed in 2022/23. It is now 2022 and no route has been chosen and the roads review panel - which assesses transport needs alongside climate goals - could even recommend chopping the scheme.

On the bridge closure, Mr Jones said: "The Welsh Government were right to commission the analysis of the bridge which has uncovered the issue. They were then right to take a safety first approach by closing the bridge despite the public backlash over the disruption."

He said with hangers - which support the bridge deck - compromised there could potentially have been a "progressive collapse" and a "potential disaster" - as have been seen in other countries.

But he added that the biggest issue he had with the Welsh Government was the failure to make more progress on the third Menai crossing.

He said: "This has to be the wake-up call for Welsh Government. We have been talking about a third crossing for a long time and now decisions need to be made. We do not want to be here in 10 years having the same conversation when something else happens, saying in hindsight we should have done something.

"We need to start now because the project will take several years. There are though companies lined up wanting to do this, it could be an iconic project if done right. We need to improve resilience on this crossing and two links are not enough."

He added: "As a nation we must continue investment in infrastructure because clearly there is a lack of resilience in the transport network in North Wales."

What do you think should happen about a third crossing? Have your say in the comments

MP for Ynys Môn, Virginia Crosbie added: "In June 2021 the Welsh Labour Government – propped up by Plaid Cymru - froze all new road-building projects to conduct a review. Their delays and lack of investment in our infrastructure is having a devastating impact on Anglesey. "

North Wales MS Sam Rowlands said: "The sudden closure of the Menai Bridge will deliver a massive blow to the economy of Anglesey, restricting the number of vehicles and will increase congestion. That’s why I raised an emergency question regarding this issue and am glad a statement will be made tomorrow.”

The operation of Menai Bridge involves a number of partners including Welsh Government, UK Highways and the Local Authority. UK Highways are operators of the A55 between junctions 1 and 11 and manage the A5 Menai Bridge as part of the A55(Design, Build, Finance and Operate) contract. This was a 30 year PFI deal agreed by the last UK Labour Government to build and maintain the Anglesey section of the A55.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "UK Highways recommended the immediate closure of the bridge due to serious concerns over safety and to allow urgent repairs to be carried out. We are fully aware of the implications this will have for people in the area and we are working closely with UK Highways to ensure this work is carried out as quickly as possible. We are also working on contingency plans to increase resilience on the Britannia Bridge which can be implemented quickly should the need arise.”

They added that the minister would make a statement on the bridge in the Senedd today.

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