Review launched as skill shortage holds back Welsh repairs

Highway barrier installation in London is stripping other areas of skilled engineers, Welsh infrastructure secretary Ken Skates has indicated as he ordered an urgent review of the speed with which roads are re-opened after accidents.

On Monday last week the A5 south of Wrexham was closed after a vehicle hit a viaduct parapet. Northbound traffic was diverted through Chirk until the small hours of Friday morning, after temporary barriers had been installed.

Mr Skates told the Welsh Assembly: ‘There has been a great challenge in identifying the specialists that are required to carry out that work, in part because of the extraordinary amount of work that’s now taking place on bridges and other facilities in London.’

The extra barrier work in London was done in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks that used vehicles to kill people on bridges and busy pedestrian areas. Barriers and other counter-terrorist infrastructure has been installed on roads across the capital.

In a separate statement, he said: ‘It is our understanding that the contractors are currently involved in other projects including installing barriers in London following recent incidents there.’

The A5 closure overlapped with disruption on the A55 Expressway, also in North Wales, after a collision on Friday 16 June. Resurfacing of the affected section was not completed until the early hours of last Tuesday, resulting in prolonged delays eastbound.

Mr Skates said: ‘I have asked for an urgent piece of work to be carried out and to be presented to me, with recommendations, before the recess, on how the response to the repair of damage can be improved, and to investigate options and costs for providing an improved emergency response to various scenarios, the types of which we have seen recently.’

North Wales’ economy relies on tourism, for which summer is the peak season. Mr Skates said he was sympathetic to concerns publicly expressed about recent disruption.

A five-hour traffic jam on the A55 on 3 June made national headlines because some of the people involved passed the time by playing cricket or line dancing on the opposite carriageway.

The review ordered by Mr Skates will look at how that incident was handled, as well as others.

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