The Gwili Valley is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful wooded valleys in Carmarthenshire. The road twists and turns alongside the Gwili River and it is home to the Gwili Steam Railway. Dotted along the valley are the villages of Bronwydd, Cwmdwyfran, Cynwyl Elfed and Cwm Duad. Despite their picturesque appearance these villages are party to the menacing danger of heavy traffic and speeding motorists. The road through the valley is littered with evidence of historic accidents. One would believe that the small pretty villages with roads particularly unsuitable for juggernauts would be off the sat navs of haulage companies but that is not the case.
Cynwyl Elfed is a small Welsh village located in a beautiful green valley with roads leading to Carmarthen and Cardigan. The pavements in the village are narrow and off road car parking space is almost non existent. Throughout the day huge trucks pass through the village often causing chaos specifically at the sharp bend entry point to the village from Carmarthen and the exit point near the chapel and the primary school, which is also a sharp bend. Local councillor Julian Evans said that it has taken over twenty years to get traffic calming measures outside the local primary school. He said: “We have been trying for years to get something done about the speeding but to no avail.” One local resident said that she has been knocked down by a van, which mounted the pavement. She said: “We have tried everything but no one seems to listen.”
Residents in Cynwyl Elfed claim that on any given day you need to have your wits about you when walking along the pavement as the huge trucks roll by with the risk of being swept off your feet or hit by a vehicle’s mirror. Children walking to school are also at risk they say.
Local residents have explored a variety of options in order to address the issue including purchasing some land to use as a car park to take cars off the main street. The use of speed bumps has been suggested as well as traffic calming lights. To date nothing has been implemented and even the road surface itself has deteriorated beyond recognition with no clear road markings.
One resident said that when there had been road works and temporary traffic lights the situation had improved. Another said that the problem is exacerbated by huge trucks taking alternative routes and avoiding using the larger roads they are meant to use.
Villagers in neighbouring Cwm Duad are also concerned over the speed of traffic going through the village. One local resident said that despite the low speed limit cars can be seen going through the village often at speeds of over 60mph. They claim that the problem of speeding traffic is particularly bad in the evening.
Welsh Government is encouraging children to walk or cycle to school and has invested in new cycle paths in many parts of Wales. Unfortunately there are no such paths in the villages of Bronwydd, Cynwyl Elfed or Cwm Duad. When questioned on issues relating to traffic issues the Senedd representatives sign post you to your local and county council.
Communities across Wales are trying hard to deal with the blight of speeding and pollution. Some might be justifiably frustrated over the messages coming out of the Senedd, which point to reducing pollution, reducing the speed of traffic in residential areas and encouraging people to take public transport, walk or cycle.
Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters MS has locked horns with residents in Sandy Road Llanelli and Llanbedr in North Wales where people are living traffic nightmares every day and calling for a bypass to rid their village of high volumes of traffic. Mr Waters maintains that building more roads cannot be the answer to the problem.
He has stated that “Generally dealing with congestion by carpeting the country with bypasses, while adding extra lanes to already jammed motorways, is simply repeating the mistakes of the past. We need a shift towards public transport.”
The frequency and quality of that public transport is questionable in rural villages across Wales. There is no clear link between those public services and tourism destinations or family attractions either. Over three quarters of public transport journeys in Wales are bus journeys but the cash bus services receive from the Welsh Government is at risk – with no clear continuation of the Bus Emergency Scheme funding which comes to an end in May 2023.
The road through Bronwydd, Cynwyl Elfed and Cwm Duad is littered with road signs stating the speed limit but without anyone present to enforce it they are just redundant pieces of roadside furniture at the expense of the tax payer.
In Llanelli people have been encouraged to undertake training (Llanelli Speedwatch Group) in order to use speed guns, a sort of speed vigilante group, which has no legal powers. The aim is to report the details of the offenders who will in turn receive a warning. Steve Donoghue who is part of the project said that the scheme targets speeding hot spots. His wife is a county councillor and Steve said that she receives large volumes of emails on the issue of speeding traffic.
There have been other unconventional methods of tackling speeding motorists including mannequins dressed in fluorescent jackets, vans resembling speed camera vans parked in hot spots and children from schools working with local police to speak to speeding drivers. Residents along the Gwili Valley say that they have exhausted all avenues including the Senedd, local and county council and the police and that they feel abandoned as a result. Policies and road signs are one thing, reality is another.