Transport Fit for Future Generations Report

The ‘Transport Fit for Future Generations Report’ published by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe shows how Wales could transform its transport system by investing in public transport, active travel and ensuring delivery of all phases of the South Wales Metro with the £1.4bn currently earmarked for the M4 Black Route.

‘Transport Fit for Future Generations’ written in partnership with the Centre for Transport and Society (CTS), University of the West of England, Sustrans and New Economics Foundation illustrates, with practical examples, how a sustainable transport system could be designed for any part of Wales.

The report highlights that despite the large and consistent body of evidence, successive governments, and the bodies that advise them, have repeatedly found it convenient to forget or deny that new roads generate more traffic independently of changes arising from growth in population or the economy.

If we are choosing to spend such a vast amount of public money on a project we need to be certain that the money we are borrowing will positively contribute to the social, environmental, economic and cultural well-being of our future generations.

The findings of this report clearly justify a reasonable cause for a review and re-appraisal of Welsh Government’s M4 Black Route proposal.”

Overview of findings and recommendations:

  • There are limitations to modelling undertaken by the Welsh Government
  • The Black Route would exacerbate many of the societal and environmental challenges facing Wales
  • The Black Route is weak on the criteria set out in the Well-being of Future Generations Act


  • Building the Black Route will result in an emission of 500,000+ tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents which will not be removed from the atmosphere until at least 2072
  • 24% of households in Wales did not own a car in 2011/12
  • Expanding the investment programme in Active Travel out to the whole Cardiff Capital Region would cost approx. £290 million but would result in economic benefits of £2.5bn over 20 years, delivering a 19% and 82% increase in walking and cycling trips respectively
  • A similar level of increase could be delivered across the whole of Wales with an investment of £600m, delivering £5bn of benefits over 20 years

Our partners’ reports

Alternative transport scenarios for South East Wales: Building for a sustainable transport future

Alternative Transport Options for South Wales

Investing in active travel in South East Wales
Policy context for investment in active travel in South Wales


Transport for Wales Rail Franchise

The Commissioner welcomes Transport for Wales’ positive approach and willingness to work with others to identify best practice from elsewhere.

Now that the successful rail operator has been announced as KeolisAmey, the Commissioner will continue to support and challenge Transport for Wales and work directly with the new operator to ensure all opportunities to contribute to the seven wellbeing goals are taken.

We are specifically encouraged by the modelling done by KeolisAmey of how they will include the 7 well-being goals in their delivery.

South Wales Metro

M4 Black Route

Acting as guardian of future generations and promoting the sustainable development principle as defined in the Act, the Commissioner submitted further evidence following my initial written evidence to the M4 public inquiry. Her advice to Welsh Government and submission to the public inquiry questioned how the Act was being considered in an existing decision (M4) and whether the decision to borrow over £1 billion is the right one for future generations.  The Commissioner wanted to avoid a dangerous precedent being set by challenging the arguments presented in the M4 inquiry which she believed could lead to a misinterpretation the Well-being of Future Generations Act and undermine its spirit and purpose.

Welsh Transport Appraisal guidance (WelTAG)

The Commissioner was approached by the Welsh Government transport team, following her intervention on the M4, to advise on their proposed update of the Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG).  The Commissioner wanted to ensure that the Act was embedded across the guidance rather than presented as a supplementary note as was initially envisaged. As a result of my advice and assistance, the new WelTAG published in December 2017 was substantially different, with the Well-being of Future Generations Act central and upfront. The new guidance now clearly states:

“It has been developed by the Welsh Government to ensure that public funds are invested in a way that ensures they maximise contribution to the wellbeing of Wales, as set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and to deliver the Act’s vision of the Wales we want” or that “WelTAG has been revised to ensure that it can drive this positive change and innovation in Wales, to ensure contribution to the seven national well-being goals and to embed the spirit of the Act.”

This new guidance represents a significant procedural change in how public bodies go about doing things and has influenced practical behaviour changes in others.  It encourages people to think wider than just road transport solutions and emphasises the need to consider wider issues such as equality of access, health, air quality, promoting active travel and reducing carbon emissions when they formulate their options throughout the process until the evaluation of the project.

Useful Resources