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Wednesday, June 05, 2019

What next for the M4?

Like many in my party, I have long been on record as being opposed to the Newport by-pass, otherwise known as the M4 relief road. It would have been an environmental disaster, a homage to gas guzzling, polluting cars, that would itself, have become congested within years, and which would have compromised five SSSIs.

My other objection was the Cardiff-centric nature of the scheme. The level of congestion and number of business-sapping accidents are as bad on the stretch of the M4 between junctions 37 and 45 as those around Newport, but there is  no sign of a multi-billion pound scheme to tackle those problems. That is because it is not the Cardiff region economy that suffers from delays generated by these incidents.

The future should not be diesel and petrol-centred, but focussed on public transport solutions. Nor can it be built around electric vehicles until the respective governments invest in a network of fast charging points in every community, possibly every street, the longevity of rechargeable batteries is extended and their cost comes down.

Yesterday's decision by the Welsh First Minister is therefore, welcome albeit surprising given the amount of time and money already invested in this scheme. What is disappointing is that he does not appear to have a plan B. Instead, he has proposed setting up a commission of experts to look at problems around Newport. Note that those experts will not be looking at the Margam-Swansea stretch of the M4 - very predictable.

Given that this matter has been under consideration for over twenty years, and that a number of groups have been putting forward different solutions for years, why was an alternative plan not already in place to be announced at the same time as the decision to abandon the M4 extension?

The Welsh Government's approach to this matter has been lackadaisical. Action needs to be taken on both of the congested sections of the M4. We don't need more talk, we need investment in viable, environmentally-friendly alternatives that will reduce congestion, and we need it now.
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