How the A55 Can Put Us on Road to Opportunity; Business PROFILF Haulage Boss Brian Lee Tells David Jones Why Improving the Expressway Will Also Boost Business for North Wales Firms
Byline: David Jones
IT'S not hard to spot what Brian Lee's big passion in life is. Transport. Framed prints of ships deck the walls of his office on Deeside, an echo of his earlier career when he served as a Merchant Navy officer.
The base for a model railway layout is propped against one wall - his hobby takes too much space at home, he says - and miniature engines and carriages sit boxed on his desk.
But it's road transport that occupies most of his time these days as he continues to drive forward the haulage business he has built up in recent years.
Lee, managing director at Sandycroft-based Allan Morris Transport, takes over as chairman of the CBI's North Wales committee next month and transport infrastructure of all kinds is likely to be high on the agenda during his two year stint in the hot seat.
"I feel it is very important to have an input and to give transport a voice," he says of his involvement with the employers' organisation.
"Road congestion is a major concern for all of us and in North Wales the A55 needs to grow. It was once hailed as the Road to Opportunity but at certain points it is now reaching saturation levels.
"The daftest things are the roundabouts at Penmaenmawr, they really do plug up the system."
Lee says he would argue there is a case for upgrading the A55 to motorway standard even though such a project would cost billions of pounds if it were to run the full length of the road from Flintshire to Holyhead.
He believes there is more "push" for that to happen from Ireland which relies on the A55 - part of an E-route -to get its goods to and from mainland Europe.
Lee says the business case for turning the A483 north-south Wales route into a dual carriageway "does not stack up as a business plan" but he does concede that a westerly bypass of Hereford, a bottleneck, would speed traffic flows, and he says there is a case for upgrading bypasses of Newbridge, Chirk and Oswestry.
The converse is true when it comes to rail travel, he says. Services on the Holyhead line have improved and now it is the rail links from North Wales down to Cardiff that need enhancing.
On climate change, he says everyone can make a contribution to reversing its damaging effects. Cleaner fuels and cleaner technologies will be an essential part of that.
And in that context he adds that the Bank of England must not jack interest rates to such a high level that companies such as his are unable to continue investing in new, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Another big issue facing the business community is the need to get local authorities in Wales to speed up their handling of planning applications of vital importance to company investment decisions. Says Lee: "Wales lags behind England on this.
"Businesses face worldwide competition and we have to get factories built and industrial estates filled. So we have to make it easier to do these things without riding roughshod over the community."
He says he feels angry that "in some respects we have not shepherded very wisely the energy resources we were given - unlike Norway who is still a major player in the North Sea.
"We have drained the oil and gas out of our reserves there for short term gain. …