Controversial plans to construct a new M4 relief road have been scrapped by the first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, in a move that has been met with frustration by the road haulage industry.
The proposals originally sought to build a new 14-mile stretch of motorway to the south of Newport, South Wales, which would run parallel to the M4 from Junction 29, Castleton to Junction 23A at Magor.
The plan was first mooted in 1991, then dropped by government in 2009. They resurfaced again in 2011, and in 2014 Wales transport minister Edwina Hart confirmed the so-called ‘Black Route’ would go ahead, with completion targeted for 2022.
However, the plans have now been dropped again due to cost and its effect on the environment, following a public inquiry.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said the decision will cost the Welsh economy “hundreds of millions of pounds” in lost investment, adding the plans would have tackled road congestion on both sides of the Welsh border.
“FTA is urging the first minister to reconsider his decision,” said Sally Gilson, head of Welsh Policy, FTA. “The construction of a ‘Black Route’ is the only option for the Welsh economy and its citizens.
“The M4 is a vital stretch of infrastructure with international economic importance, yet it is blighted by heavy congestion. FTA’s members have consistently evidenced the urgent need to tackle these congestion issues, and it is frustrating the opportunity to deliver this essential investment into South Wales’ infrastructure has been missed.
“The decision will cost the Welsh economy hundreds of millions of pounds in lost private sector investment,” Gilson continued. “As per the Welsh Government’s own assessment, it would have delivered £2 for every £1 invested.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) called the rejection a “huge blow” for the Welsh economy, adding Drakeford’s decision “will dash the hopes of firms expecting improvements to a creaking road network after years of promises”.
“Firms frustrated with crippling congestion on the M4 will feel they’ve been let down by the Welsh government,” said RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett.
“South Wales needs high-capacity, high-quality road infrastructure to keep people and goods moving efficiently. But scrapping the relief road without a clear alternative to reduce congestion will only make Wales less attractive to investors.”
More information: DfT