Infrastructure and Wellbeing in Wales

Transport infrastructure and wellbeing objectives

Transport infrastructure is most directly relevant to the following of the Welsh Government’s ‘wellbeing objectives’(Wellbeing of Wales: 2021 | GOV.WALES ) for 2021-2026:

  • Providing effective, high quality and sustainable healthcare – by prioritising and ensuring fast, convenient, affordable and safe public transport to/from facilities for staff, patients and visitors with, and maximising e-mobility for healthcare-related motorised transport.
  • Protecting, re-building and developing our services for vulnerable people – by allowing access to services and by efficiently delivering services to their homes and local communities.
  • Celebrating diversity and moving to eliminate inequality in all of its forms – by reducing transport-related barriers to participation (long travel times, affordability, poorly connected multimodal services, poor information provision, digital exclusion) for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups
  • Enabling our tourism, sports and arts industries to thrive by improving accessibility to relevant locations using sustainable modes of transport
  • Building a stronger, greener economy as we make maximum progress towards decarbonisation – by integrating transport infrastructures for walking, cycling, micro-mobility and public transport with each other, with energy and digital infrastructures, and with land use planning.
  • Making our cities, towns and villages even better places in which to live and work..
  • Embedding our response to the climate and nature emergency in everything we do – by integrating decarbonisation and climate adaptation in transport infrastructure planning, design, management and operation.

Realising the potential of transport infrastructure to contribute to the achievement of the above objectives is easier if such infrastructure is understood in particular ways.

Infrastructure as something more than hardware

More than ‘hardware’ of tracks, asphalt, cables, EV charges, and so on – infrastructures are constantly evolving socio-technical systems.

These consist of configurations of ‘hardware’ elements as well as business models, practices of operation information provision, payment mechanisms, procedures for maintenance and repair, regulations, values (e.g. privileging of speed over reliability or inclusivity), and user practices.

All these elements need to be considered in the design of new and retrofitting of existing infrastructure and concession contracting.

Vertically interconnected infrastructure

It is also useful if infrastructure is understood as something that is interconnected vertically.

Infrastructures have an optimum scale or distance over which they connect locations best.

Planning is about making sustainable modes the default at the appropriate scale and the interconnections between scales as seamless as possible.

This means:

  • Walking, cycling and micro-mobility (e.g. e-scooters) as default on the neighbourhood scale
  • E-bus, urban rail, car sharing at the city scale
  • Train and car sharing between cities/regions and to England
  • Synchronising timetables and integrated ticketing between different services plus ensuring safe, convenient and cheap parking for bikes and micro-mobility at public transport stops.

For freight, prioritise consolidation ’centres’ (from lockers/pick-up points to city distribution centres) as well as e-bike delivery (neighbourhood) and electric vans (urban) and keep HGVs out of high-density developments and settlements as much as possible

Horizontally interconnected infrastructure

Transport infrastructures do not operate in a vacuum. They increasingly depend on electricity and digital infrastructures, and grid capacity is often a significant constraint, especially when charging facilities are spatially clustered (e.g. neighbourhood emobility hubs, bus or commercial vehicle depots).

Planning of transport, electricity and digital infrastructures needs to be integrated fully. Integration is also required with urban/land use/healthcare planning.

For instance, even if connected by public transport, building new hospitals on the outskirts of town tends to increase car dependency and increases accessibility barriers for many disadvantaged and vulnerable households.

Linking infrastructure planning/development to regional and national spatial-economic strategy is important at all spatial scales, but especially with large-scale infrastructures such as ports and airports. However, expanding or building such infrastructures is also vulnerable to ‘stranding’ in the medium term because their carbon intensity is incompatible with the need for deep cuts in CO2 emissions.

Purpose and time of use

Transport infrastructure planning remains too much focused on commuting and the traditional peak hours.

For transport infrastructure to help realise a wellbeing agenda, greater importance must be attached to a wide range of reasons why people go out, especially those known to enhance subjective wellbeing the most, such as meeting friends/relatives, undertaking leisure/recreation, religion/spirituality, exercise, health.

This also means considering the daily and weekly rhythms of mobility needs and how infrastructure provision caters to those; public transport provision may need to be rethought and infrastructure for community/shared mobility developed or enhanced.

Territorially differentiated

Transport infrastructure development and planning does not happen on a blank slate, and what is appropriate and works will differ across different parts of Wales.

Multi-scalar approaches to (transport) infrastructure planning and development in which local communities play an ‘upstream’ role are therefore essential.

Enhancing wellbeing

The above is perspective on transport infrastructure can be used to identify existing good practice and new priorities for the (near) future.

Doing this for all 10 objectives is beyond this document. For illustrative purposes, attention is directed to the first objective on healthcare:

  • An example of existing good practice is that healthcare facilities are normally given much attention in transport infrastructure planning, including public transport service routing and timetabling. More could, however, be done in many circumstances, especially to minimise barriers (e.g. long travel times, transfers, price levels, inadequate information, exclusion from digital payment) for disadvantaged/vulnerable individuals in ill-health. Required interventions will vary across locations and groups, which means that localised, participatory design and planning is essential and must be enabled. Major new facilities (e.g. hospitals) could be connected with bus rapid transit (BRT) to central nodes in existing public transport networks.
  • As significant attractors of traffic, healthcare facilities are locations where infrastructure development and operation can play a role in cultivating sustainable mobility behaviour. This typically requires thinking about packages of multiple interventions. For instance, facilities can become sites where public charging infrastructure for e-mobility can be concentrated (and grid capacity constraints will often be limited), offering real practical value to employees and visitors. Users of the charging infrastructure can be given incentives (e.g. parking near entrance) and exemption of restrictions on parking for fossil fuel powered vehicles (e.g. lower/zero tariffs). Infrastructure development and management can packaged to enhance efficacy.
  • Healthcare service provision also generates substantial professional/commercial vehicular traffic. Uptake of e-mobility in ambulances, vehicles by travelling nurses and care workers, and delivery vehicles could, in part to lead by example, be encouraged through support for charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) infrastructure.
  • Pressure on healthcare services can be relieved by investment in prevention of ill-health. Investment in safe, convenient and widespread infrastructure for cycling, walking and micromobility has a role to play in prevention, and is therefore indirectly relevant to the realisation of the first objective in the longer term.


This brief example demonstrates that infrastructure development, planning and operation with a focus on healthcare also contribute to the realisation of other objectives, in particular services for vulnerable people, eliminating inequality and embedding a response to the climate emergency in transport systems.