A55 shutdown: Widening 'impractical' say ministers

The transport minister has thanked motorists for their patience after a 12-hour shutdown of the A55 in Gwynedd when a lorry overturned.

Around 1,000 litres of diesel spilt and caused traffic gridlock, including on diverted routes, on Wednesday.

The North Wales Business Club warned of the economic impact and called for the A55 to be made into a six-lane arterial road to avert a future shutdown.

The Welsh government said this was not practical or financially feasible.

One person was injured in the incident involving a meat lorry at Abergwyngregyn at around 07:50 BST.

The eastbound carriageway finally re-opened at about 20:30 BST after the lorry had been removed and the road hosed down.

David Williams, chairman of the business club told BBC Wales: "It's hugely unfortunate. I'm sure thousands of man hours were lost in the north Wales economy. It is a big problem for north Wales.

"People do say that if it had been built, as it should've been built, as a six-lane motorway then many of these problems would not have occurred."

Mr Williams said the "economic ramifications" of such a shutdown were "quite considerable".

"It is as hugely well used commercial arterial route and it is the only route across the top of the roof of north Wales and when it's closed there are very few alternatives," he said.

Motorists contacted the BBC News website with stories of delays.

They included commuters stuck in traffic for six hours to a holidaymaker who missed her flight to North America, from Manchester Airport, after being stuck in jams on the 40 mile detour on the diverted route through Bethesda.

Grahame Lloyd, an IT manager for the North Wales Ambulance Service, lives on Anglesey and was caught up in the traffic jam for two hours before managing to turn around.

"My biggest concern was that this was a single-vehicle incident and look at the disruption it caused," he said.

"It brought the whole of north Wales to a standstill. The road structure in north Wales needs to be improved."

A 12-mile traffic jam built up on the commuter route, after the road was closed in both directions. The westbound carriageway reopened later, followed at 20:30 BST by the eastbound carriageway.

The Welsh government said providing a hard shoulder or extending the A55 to a six-lane carriageway would involve widening the existing highway corridor along its full length.

A spokesperson said constraints along parts of the road, such as bridges, tunnels and properties made it impractical.

"Widening the highway would involve land acquisition and would be very costly. In view of the above, and the current tight financial climate, it is not considered to be a feasible option."

Transport Minister Carl Sargeant said the clean-up after the incident involved using a crane to remove the lorry, removing by hand 25 tonnes of meat, reloading it and clearing around 1,000 litres of spilled fuel.

He said there was also washing down and gritting of the damaged carriageway over a significant length and assessing the damage to fencing, carriageway and lighting columns.

"I want to express my appreciation for the professionalism and hard work shown by all that were involved in getting the A55 moving and I would like to assure people that we will investigate to see if there are any lessons to be learned from this incident," said Mr Sargeant.

"I would also like to thank those that were held up in the inevitable tailbacks for their patience and to the communities in the surrounding area that were affected by congestion as a result of the necessary diversion routes. "

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