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Monday, February 27, 2017

Is the M4 relief road on a journey to nowhere?

My objections to the M4 relief road around Newport have been stated over and over again, on this blog, in party conferences and in the Welsh Assembly chamber. I have five basic concerns:

1. The environmental damage; the road will pass through five SSSIs, add to to air pollution and disturb a number of valuable ecological areas;

2. The long term impact on traffic: like every new road it will fill up within years and will soon be featuring on every traffic bulletin for delays and accidents. It will not be long before people are calling for yet another relief road.

3. The cost: £1.1 billion is a huge amount of money to spend on a road, especially when other parts of Wales need it more. If we are going to spend that sum of money then it needs to be invested in the Metro system that will take traffic off the road and be better for the environment.

4. It is Cardiff-centric: As the Welsh Government's own analysis shows, Cardiff would be the biggest beneficiary, with Gross Domestic Product boosted by £5.8m a year by 2037 and £8.3m a year by 2051 (figures in 2010 prices). Newport would also receive an uplift amounting to £7.3m a year by 2051, whilst annual GDP in Rhondda Cynon Taf would increase by £1.1m. In contrast, Swansea, Bridgend, the Vale of Glamorgan and Neath Port Talbot would each get an uplift of between £300,000 and £800,000 a year by 2051.

5. It does not tackle the worse congestion on the M4 which is actually between junctions 37 and 43, where the road drops to two lanes causing chaos during rush hour. Of course that section of the M4 is not near Cardiff and has no impact on the economy of the Welsh capital so it is ignored.

Today's Western Mail has managed to conjure up a sixth concern, quoting an official analysis which demonstrates that the planned new section of the M4 at Newport would deliver bigger economic benefits to England than to the most deprived counties in south Wales.

They say that Bristol would benefit significantly from the new motorway, to the tune of £3.6m a year by 2037 and growing to £6.1m by 2051. South Gloucestershire, north of Bristol, would see agglomeration boost its GDP by £4m a year by 2037, falling back to £3m a year in 2051, while North Somerset’s GDP would be boosted by £4m by 2051.

Those three English counties account for 32% of the total agglomeration benefit by 2037, rising to 36% by 2051.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats, like a number of other parties have opposed the Welsh Government's preferred black route. preferring the alternative blue route instead. However, that alternative is also expensive and would have a much reduced impact on traffic congestion. It would fill up more quickly because it would be constructed over existing roads and have to absorb existing non-motorway traffic.

That is why I would argue that the Metro is the only way forward. Instead of accommodating more cars on the M4 we should be giving people viable alternatives, reduce pollution, protect our vital green spaces and work towards the sustainable future the Welsh Government claims to want.
Great summary of the problems. Let's hope you and others can make the Government see sense!
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