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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.