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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Double whammy on M4 relief road

There is no doubt in my view that something needs to be done to relieve congestion on the M4 around Newport. But is a relief road the right solution?

The problem with new roads is that they fill up as fast as you can build them and then we have demands for yet more roads to relieve them. In the case of this section of the M4, the main cause of congestion is local traffic travelling distances of less than 5 miles. The obvious solution is to bolster public transport and build new local roads, something I thought the Welsh Government were doing through the Corus site.

However, this does not appear to be enough for some campaigners. They want the full relief road but in doing so it seems that local people and the whole of Wales will have to pay a high price.

The main cost is environmental and the prospect of five SSSIs being concreted over. That action alone will generate huge controversy. But add to that the idea that the relief road will be tolled and we have a potential economic farce on our hands.

They tried this solution on the M6 of course and everybody stuck to the free section of motorway. As a result the M6 relief road is losing money.

On the M4 the issue is more substantial. There is already a toll on the Severn Bridge, which looks likely to remain beyond the ending of the current PFI contract. Thus vehicles travelling into South Wales face the prospect of paying twice. That is hardly going to engender growth.

The idea is barmy. We already lose out because of the bridge tolls, with many businesses relocating to the English side of the River Severn. How will a second toll help?

If this really is the solution then the Government need to go back to the drawing board.
The solution is to stop the local traffic traveling less than 5 miles using the M4 around the Newport area. What's with using the M4 for such a short distance anyway? The road network around Newport is a good one, and it is often very much quicker, probably because all the other drivers are on the motorway!!! I no longer drive, but when I was driving, I used to from Barry to Newport using the old A48 route, rather than use the M4.
Well: simple solution: use tolls a LOT more on ALL or nearly ALL British motorways. With more tolls the cost of an individual toll should be less and the often argued point of businesses moving to the English side of the River Severn would be less of an issue. "There, that was easy".
As you say we should be doing more to enable sustainable transport options. If a new road is built it will inevitably fill it up (then what will we do? Build another one?). We have to think about the bigger picture here and how we move to more sustainable transport. Climate Change is a big issue which is not going away, new road building is just not an option. We cannot legitimise spending a huge amount of public money on such a damaging project.
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