BRYNMAWR is becoming a forgotten town, traders have warned, thanks to endless road closures and diversions that put shoppers off visiting.

Improvement works on the A465 Heads of the Valleys road have disrupted traffic in and around Brynmawr for several years, and ongoing uncertainty over the project's completion date has compounded frustrations for residents and business owners.

A Welsh Government update, issued in February this year, noted the effects of the pandemic on construction, and gave "autumn 2021" as the expected completion date for the Section 2 area of the road, which stretches from Gilwern to Brynmawr.

But with November approaching, there is no sign of the roadworks coming to an end – and for the past year, anyone travelling to Brynmawr on the A465 westbound has found the slip-road exit closed, forcing them to take detour to nearby Rassau and double-back on themselves if they are to visit the town.

This is putting people off visiting and sending shoppers elsewhere, traders claim.

Dewi Durban runs Durban's Shoe Repairs in the centre of Brynmawr. The family business has been a fixture in the town since 1979, and four years ago moved to a  bigger premises.

Since then, the A465 project has seen countless road closures and construction work, and Mr Durban estimates footfall is "pretty much wiped out".

"People from down the Valleys are not coming up [to Brynmawr]," he said. "The ones who do say they don't know if it will take 30 minutes or two hours.

"People don't want to risk it. I think a lot will just think that 'I'll go to Ebbw Vale instead.'"

Recently he estimates his business is down around £800 on normal trade, and he said locals felt unheard when they complained about the duration of the construction work on the A465.

"The lack of urgency is going to be costing people their livelihoods," he added. "There are only so many bad months you can do."

Marc Davies runs the First Base Designer Clothing store in the town. He said Brynmawr's residents "got on with it" during the early stages of the road project, but since then it had "dragged and dragged".

"People don't want to come into the town," he said. "It serves as a bypass."

He added: "Brynmawr has always been a resilient town, but like any town now it's struggling. Between this and Covid footfall is down. We [should be] wanting people to come into high streets, not keeping them away."


Mr Davies said communicating with contractors Costain had also been frustrating. The firm runs a Facebook page which informs locals of upcoming changes to road layouts and routes, but the businessman said that when he had tried to request updates from Costain "they say there's no date [set] for completion".

"It's like a boxing match with your hands tied behind your back," he said. "The town is fighting for its survival."

Fed up with delays, local resident Mererid Davies has launched a petition, calling on the Welsh Government to speed things up, because "people have simply had enough".

She said Brynmawr's residents were "subject to a ridiculous amount of road closures" with "no set date for the works to be completed".

"Not to mention the Brynmawr exit junction being closed off for almost 14 months, despite Costain promising they would endeavour to limit the closure to three-four months when meeting with local residents and retailers who were strongly opposed to it," Mrs Davies said. "The closure impacts everyone that needs the Brynmawr exit, and it is so important for links to the A467 too."

On the project, she added: "We all understand they have a big and very important job to do – and are grateful that it’s been done safely – but enough is enough."

The online petition to the Welsh Government calls for Section 2 of the A465 to be completed as "a matter of urgency".

The Argus asked the Welsh Government to comment on the concerns raised in Brynmawr. In response, a spokesman said the delays to the re-opening of the Brynmawr exit slip-road had been cause by repair works to Clydach Viaduct.

"The project remains on target for completion later this year," he added. "We are grateful for the patience of road users and people living and working in the area while the final construction works are completed."

Even so, people in Brynmawr wonder if the A465 improvement works will be worth it in the end, given the proposals to improve road safety by installing a permanent 50mph speed limit on that stretch of the Heads of the Valleys road, once construction work is complete.

"It could have been a great thing, but with the speed cameras we won't be better off," Mr Davies said. "We might as well not have had it done."

And petition organiser Mrs Davies said: "We all thought that the purpose of the road was to make travelling a little bit quicker and safer along the route but with a 50 mph speed limit, enforced by average speed cameras, we really are no better off, after all the massive inconvenience it has caused users and local residents.

"In hindsight I honestly believe if they use the 50mph argument as a safety issue, I wonder why the old route was not kept and that cameras could have been placed to make the road safer.  Imagine the money and inconveniences that would have saved everyone."