It really does challenge the mind as you look in all directions and see huge earth moving machines, pile drivers, cranes, lorries of all shapes and sizes and hundreds and hundreds of mainly men in yellow jackets and hard hats dotted around the landscape.
While Wales looks to stick a plaster on the NHS, dentistry and the education system and to reach no1 in the charts for Climate Change heroes it refuses to relieve pollution blighted villages with a few hundred yards of tarmac at a fraction of the cost of this carbon guzzling contract. Some reports have estimated the cost over £100m a mile.
Dualling the 17.3km stretch of the A465 Heads of the Valleys road between Dowlais Top and Hirwaun is the biggest road infrastructure project ever commissioned by the Welsh Government. It’s estimated cost is £590M although that figure may be an underestimate.
The Welsh Government has admitted that the estimated Design, Build, Finance and Operate contract award for the 11-mile Dowlais-Hirwaun part of the Heads of the Valleys road was more than £550m. Annual Service Payments (ASPs) to the contractor, which cover the cost of construction, maintenance and financing the project, are commercially confidential although it has been disclosed that the ASPs will be around £38m. Over the 30-year operational contract period, the ASPs total £1.14bn in current prices.
Although the Welsh Government does not directly pay the cost of construction, the structure of its Mutual Investment Model means that a higher construction cost results in higher ASPs.
If you add VAT costs of over £100m and then a further £45m on compensation for people affected by the A465 project that is one whopping sum of money for a Climate Change obsessed government to shell out on a piece of road.
The project began more than 20 years ago and the aim is to make the entire route from Monmouthshire to Neath Port Talbot into a dual carriageway. Almost 100 people have made claims for compensation. Some claimants received a payout of £10.7m. One can only assume this herculean road building project will make life easier for the coach loads of people heading to the Senedd for a cuppa and to bypass the 20mph restrictions.
It is the 20mph that has hit the headlines and attracted the outrage of the Welsh public as they claim, it impacts on their daily lives. The last editorial covered the Ali Bongo like antics of governments. It is all down to slight of hand. While you are looking at one hand the other is doing something entirely different to mislead you into believing or not seeing the truth. So disillusioned are some in hardcore Labour areas of Wales that they are considering starting new political parties to challenge the status quo. More on that in months to come.
The very next time your local coach operator asks where you fancy going you really must tell them you want a trip along the Heads of the Valley Road. It is like being on the set of Lord of the Rings just after the Orks rip everything apart or an epic war film like All Quiet on the Western Front. Just marvel at the fact that your bus is travelling along some tarmac, (it won’t all be down for another few years) costing an estimated £100m a mile. Perhaps you could then request a detour via the Senedd just to stop for a cuppa (free entry) and see if you can spot the Ministers for Climate Change, Health and Education and ask them if they’ll join you for a cosy cuppa and a slice of the cake.
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