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Friday, March 11, 2016

The rising cost of Labour's flagship road

This morning's Western Mail reports that predictions by the First Minister about the cost of the M4 relief road around Newport have been proved wide of the mark, just months after he made them.

In November, when it was suggested to him that the by-pass would cost over a billion pounds, the Welsh Labour leader said it would be “way below that”. However, a Welsh Government report has now put the cost of the project, excluding VAT and inflation, at £1.093bn:

According to the report, 35 new bridges would be required along the length of the scheme.

This would include a 440m bridge across the River Usk which would be “a similar type of structure to the Second Severn Crossing”. It would be high enough to “allow for the passage of ships”.

The report states: “Twelve residential buildings would require demolition as a result of the Scheme, five of which are already in Welsh Government ownership, including one Grade II Listed Building namely the Vicarage in Magor.”

It was inevitable that the cost of this project would break the one billion pound mark and I am astonished that the First Minister was prepared to go on the record to say otherwise.

The issue now is whether Wales can afford to go ahead with it. My view is that we cannot. Not because it is too expensive, though it is, but that at best it will only provide a short term solution until it fills up with traffic too. We need a radical public transport based alternative.

And of course the Newport stretch is not the worst congestion point on the M4. That is around Port Talbot. I do not see any proposals coming forward to deal with that problem.
Wouldn't it be very hard to sail a flagship on a road?
I know it's election year, so you dare not say it but the solution to the M4 around Port Talbot is to close J41. Craven political cowardice (by Labour) keeps it open, causes regular crashes, clogs the traffic.
When it was closed it took just 30 seconds off the average journey. The problem is actually bigger than one junction. It exists between junctions 38 and 43 and is entirely down to squeezing three lanes of traffic into two.
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