According to my stats, the majority of the people who read this blog are in the United States. Even if you lived in Her Majesty’s United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, though, you might find any talk of the proposed Circuit of Wales race track to be a little hyperlocal. But, hey, it’s my blog and this seems like the appropriate forum to express my deep frustration with what I feel is yet another swindle at the expense of the people of the South Wales Valleys.
In the late 1800s, however, much of the area fell victim to the Industrial Revolution and began churning out all kinds of terrible pollutants, along with coal, tin, and iron that was shipped all over the world. The Ebbw Valley, at the top of which would be the proposed CoW, became a major steel-producing area and was soon choked by all the terrible things a factory can produce. It is generally thought that the valley was partial inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s Mordor (“a dying land not yet dead”).
- Destruction of natural beauty: One of my favourite things about teaching at Ebbw Vale was looking out my classroom window at the surrounding hills. The valley is recovering remarkably well in the wake of the steelworks and could quite easily become a much-envied place to live and visit, serving as gateway to Brecon Beacons National Park. It is beautiful up there and all you need do to capitalise on that is tidy up a little and leave nature alone.
- Weather: Wales is well known for its bad weather. I read a statistic many moons ago that on average it is cloudy in Wales 300 days a year. It is measurably wetter here than elsewhere in Britain, which is the sort of thing I’d think you’d want to avoid when picking a spot to race two-wheeled vehicles. Additionally, the proposed CoW site is in one of the most miserable spots to be in winter. It snows. The wind kicks around terribly. And because of elevation it is markedly colder than just 30 miles away in Cardiff.
- Poor road access: In the aforementioned bad weather, roads in the Ebbw Valley are pretty much unusable. Every winter, a handful of my classes would be cancelled because people simply could not get to the centre where I taught. But even in good weather, the only means of getting to the proposed CoW site is via the Heads of the Valleys road (ie, A465), which is just a two-lane thing with multiple roundabouts and curves that help to keep most people to a speed of 40-50 mph, despite a legal limit of 60. Access to this road is via equally small and winding roads. Physically, I live about 30 miles from Ebbw Vale but it took about an hour and a half to get there with no traffic. Any traffic at all, especially coming from multiple directions and converging at the CoW site, would create huge, huge problems.
- Poor infrastructure: The nearest train stop to the CoW site is several miles away and takes an hour to travel from Cardiff Central. Bus travel is farcical and infrequent. This is the way of things in Blaenau Gwent. Anyone who thinks the CoW could somehow spur development at infrastructure should read this article. Public transportation is abysmal in Wales and its leaders have effectively admitted that they plan to do nothing.
- The state of motorsport in Britain: Even big-name tracks like Mallory, Donnington, Thruxton and Silverstone struggle to pull in crowds. Why on Earth would anyone think that a track located in a cold, wet, faraway and hard-to-reach location could perform better? Especially when motorsports are not all that popular in the UK. After a Google search, it appears the BBC have television rights to Moto GP but I have never seen it. I have never seen it being aired in a pub. I have never had a conversation with someone who was interested in it. Certainly motorcycle racing is more popular here than in the United States, but not by much outside of niche circles.