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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

M4 extension: The wrong proposal

The Western Mail features quite prominently the views of the Federation of Small Businesses, academics and environmentalists at the Welsh Government's consultation on removing blockages on the M4 around Newport.

The views of the FSB are particularly cutting and raise questions about how business friendly the proposed solution is as well as the nature of the consultation itself. They believe that the Welsh Government is leaving itself open to judicial challenge and years of delays to its M4 relief road plans due to its the handling of a consultation into the project:

Iestyn Davies, from the FSB, said there should be a “more thorough approach” from the Welsh Government on the issue.

He said: “Ultimately, as the consultation shows, if you say to somebody or a group of people ‘here’s an option you’re very familiar with, that looks attractive and the only one we’ll ask you to consider’, then you shouldn’t be surprised however you consult, however you ask people’s option, that’s the option they come up with, because you are defining the consultation in those terms. And that seems very much the case as we see it.

“Fundamentally, if you rule out the value for money options, better transport options, the National Assembly and Welsh Government has a responsibility to consider the sustainable development issue and agenda and the impact on this.

“And we would say, on two fronts, this is leaving the Welsh Government open to judicial challenge.”
Representatives from a transport consortium of 10 South Wales councils, the South East Wales Transport Alliance (Sewta). told Assembly Members they were “disappointed” at the scope of the consultation, which doesn’t include options to improve public transport.

It also said previous estimates of traffic flows on the stretch near Newport had outdated figures, and more recent surveys had shown traffic had either plateaued or reduced.

Professor Stuart Cole told the Sustainability Committee today that he thought the Welsh Government were pursuing a more expensive option because it represented “an engineer’s dream”, compared to a previously favoured option of upgrading the A48 with the Llanwern steelworks road being upgrades to a four-lane high:

Prof Cole warned disputes and arguments could last years, delaying the 2020 target for completion of the project.

And he added: “The total cost of building the motorway will undoubtedly increase as we go along”.
He said a new option, which he suggested was favoured by the Welsh Government, of building a new relief road to divert traffic away from the notorious bottleneck, would cost more than £930m, while the A48 option would cost around £380m.

There is also a strong argument from environmental groups, who oppose the proposals on the grounds of the impact on wildlife and ecosystems around the Gwent Levels. I have sympathy with all these views. A new motorway will fill up in a decade, getting local traffic off the M4 and upgrading public transport is a far more sustainable solution.
How about building some heavy lift airship freight terminals? Move freight from the roads. These babies will, as they evolve, lift several thousand tons of freight - across land and water. cw
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