M4 relief road around Newport: closing arguments for and against

Original article written by Nicholas Thomas for the South Wales Argus as featured on their website on 3rd June 2019.  It features a comment from Leon Fear relating to the proposed M4 relief road.

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WITH one day to go until Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford announces his decision on the future of the M4 relief road, we take one last look at some of the arguments for, and against, the project.

Nearly five years have passed since former Welsh business minister Edwina Hart announced she was reviving the relief road project, and in that time it hasn’t always been easy to keep up with the endless tumult of opinions.

But tomorrow could bring an end to that. Here, various interested parties present their closing arguments.

— ‘Businesses rely on good road links’

Leon Fear, international property developer and investor, Fear Group.

Mr Fear said: “Whilst environmental concerns are extremely important, restricting economic growth through lack of adequate and future-proofed infrastructure, ultimately affects investment and therefore jobs.

“The current situation with queuing around the [Brynglas] tunnels is regularly causing huge delays and pollution from stationary traffic, which isn’t sustainable in the long term.

“A mix of transport solutions is required, with neither private cars nor public transport services being able to provide the solution alone.

“Trucking operations and businesses rely on good road links and businesses need people and people need to be able to get to work.

“With population growth increasing in South East Wales I believe the M4 relief road is vital, and if it doesn’t go ahead as proposed I believe the issue will be being talking about it again in a few years time, when it will inevitably be a necessity.”

— ‘Congestion is a major barrier to economic growth’

Ian Edwards, chief executive, Celtic Manor Resort.

Mr Edwards said: “The Celtic Manor Resort has been a long-term supporter of plans to build a relief road for the M4 motorway.

“Congestion on the M4 around Newport is a major barrier to economic growth in South Wales and a source of intense frustration for industry and commerce.

“Inward investment to Wales is being seriously affected by this problem with businesses discouraged from operating in, or trading with, South Wales because of the issues surrounding the road network.

“The abolition of the M4 tolls has removed one serious obstacle to cross-border travel and trade, but the congestion caused by the narrowing of the motorway to two lanes at the Brynglas tunnels presents another huge deterrent that needs to be eased by this relief road.

“Later this summer we open the new International Convention Centre Wales – a game-changing venue for Wales in terms of the major business events it will attract and the benefits it will bring to the Welsh economy – and it is vital we do everything possible to attract major conferences and the thousands of delegates they will bring to spend money in our region.

“ICC Wales can attract more than 5,000 delegates at a time, most of whom will need access and egress via the M4.

“As well as bringing many visitors in from England and the east, ICC Wales will also rely on delegates being able to transfer effectively from hotels in and around Cardiff – something that cannot be guaranteed with the present M4 situation around the Brynglas tunnels.

“ICC Wales is a spectacular venue ready to lead the way in convention delivery in the UK.

“The last thing we need is for the first impression of our visitors to be unfavourable because they face delays to reach the venue, so it is absolutely vital that this relief road is agreed and built as soon as possible.

“The future prosperity of South Wales depends upon it.”

— ‘Congestion must be relieved and accident figures reduced’

Robert Lloyd Griffiths, director, Institute of Directors (IoD) Wales.

In a statement issued in September 2018, Mr Lloyd Griffiths said: “The M4 is the artery leading in and out of South Wales and we have been debating, discussing, analysing, mulling over, re-debating and talking about it for far too long.

“For the business leaders I speak to day in, day out, the message on improving the M4 is clear: get it done and get it done quickly.

“We have conducted various surveys among our members for some time now, which have revealed that the M4 and major road links to North Wales still need to be drastically improved at busy junctions – congestion must be relieved and accident figures reduced.

“The M4 around Newport is currently not fit for purpose and utilises some of the UK’s oldest motorway tunnels in the UK. It was built to standards and traffic flows much lower than today.”

He added: “Many visitors and neighbours to South Wales are given an unfair impression of South Wales and an integrated transport infrastructure would alleviate this.

“I have often commented on the importance of an integrated transport infrastructure and all it adds to the economy of Wales, let alone the impression it presents to our neighbours and visitors.

“The delivery of an M4 relief road is probably the most important transport infrastructure project in Wales and having viewed the options, the IoD have nailed our colours to the mast and that colour is black.

“The black route, we believe, offers the best possible opportunity for a long term solution that will meet the challenges of today’s traffic and those of the future.”

— Cancel project ‘for the sake of future generations’

Ian Rappel, chief executive, Gwent Wildlife Trust.

Mr Rappel said: “On the eve of World Environment Day, we want the ‘Black Route’ M4 motorway – the UK’s most ecologically damaging motorway proposal – to be scrapped.

“This destructive option should be cancelled for good, for the sake of people and wildlife now and for future generations.

“The wonderful Gwent Levels is Wales’ biodiversity equivalent of the Amazon rainforest.

“It is vitally important endangered species like water voles, otters, cranes and beetles are protected and that people maintain a connection to this wildlife, along with access to this great, green landscape.

“The Welsh Government should be investing in an innovative, low carbon sustainable transport solution to congestion, instead of wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on a ’60s solution to congestion of building another motorway.

“In light of the recent climate emergency declared by the Welsh Government, we are hopeful that Mr Drakeford and the Welsh Government will make the right decision – no new M4.”

— ‘Uncertainty is putting jobs at risk’

Spokeswoman for service station firm Roadchef, which runs Magor Services at Junction 23A.

She said: “As the proposed black route currently stands, J23A and Magor Services will be effectively excluded from the new M4.

“Drivers would need to make a 4.2-mile diversion to access Magor Services under these plans. Independent research commissioned by Roadchef shows 82 per cent of drivers would be less likely to use Magor Services.

“Motorway service areas play a key role in ensuring the safety of road users by providing a safe place to rest.

“Reducing access to Magor services effectively leaves a 49-mile gap between motorway service areas, while exiting guidance and industry standards recommend this distance does not exceed 28 miles.

“A report commissioned by Welsh Government warned that ‘[the significant detour proposed] could result in higher levels of fatigue amongst drivers along this section of the M4 resulting in a variety of collision types.'”

She said planned investment at Magor Services had been put on hold. This included a building extension, opening a new cafe, and creating 30 HGV and 50 car parking spaces.

She added: “Roadchef anticipated extra visits to the site generated by this investment would have resulted in an additional 25 jobs for the local community – instead, uncertainty over the site’s future is putting the site’s 190 jobs at risk.”

— ‘Our natural environment is in crisis’

Haf Elgar, director, Friends of the Earth Cymru.

Ms Elgar said: “The M4 relief road would be a disaster for the wildlife on the Gwent Levels, and lead to more air pollution and climate-wrecking emissions being pumped into our atmosphere.

“With the world facing a climate emergency and our natural environment in crisis it’s unimaginable that the Welsh Government would go ahead with this damaging new road.”

 

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