M4 Relief Road Inquiry
The below article, written by Leon Fear, was printed in the South Wales Argus Newspaper on 24th February 2017 as part of a feature about the M4 relief road inquiry.
Accessibility and communications are two key areas which help enable business growth wherever you are in the world.
Despite all the concerns around the proposed M4 relief road I, and our organisation Fear Group, support the plan in principal of a relief road to ease congestion and help improve the economy of Newport and the wider region. With the welcome reduction in the bridge tolls not far away, and the increase in traffic flow between England and Wales generally, the strain on the M4 around Newport is going to become more profound.
We need a mix of transport solutions and creating a well planned relief road is vitally important but in my opinion it must not ‘bypass’ Newport or dissect it in order for it to be a success for the city, its residents and businesses, as well as the wider region.
Since 1991 the concept has caused huge controversy ranging from concerned businesses and residents in the City of Newport, and environmental groups worried about the effects on wildlife on the Gwent Levels in particular, all of which are valid and must be considered fully and in detail before irreversible decisions are made.
Metro Bus and any increase in the use of the mainline railway is good news in my view, but it is only part of the equation and alone will not provide the solution. The pressure is building up daily and without a relief road ultimately the city itself and wider area will suffer, as businesses need people and people need to be able to get to work. Without business and free enterprise being able to conduct itself without being held back by accessibility issues, the ultimate affect is less productivity which results in fewer jobs and growth.
As Economy Secretary for Wales, Ken Skates AM, has said there is a need, regardless of commuters using alternative methods of transport, to address increased traffic volumes and over capacity on the M4 around Newport and the Brynglas Tunnels. Unfortunately alternative methods only scratch the surface when you consider there are around 100,000 vehicles using the M4 around Newport every day. The reality in my opinion is that all infrastructure, including the mainline railway network need further investment.
The cost of the proposals for the relief road have been widely scrutinised and in general borrowing at the levels indicated when national debt is at all time high isn’t good news, however infrastructure spending is a crucially important catalyst to future investment.
For too long infrastructure has taken a back seat in many areas of the UK. It’s well know to people driving between Bristol and Cardiff for example that queues of up to 10 and 20 miles around the tunnels are common. This congestion is not good for the economy, jobs, growth, or the environment with thousands of vehicles engines running and often going nowhere.
It is perhaps worth bearing in mind that less than 7% of the entire UK is built on in any form whatsoever, that includes all housing, schools, shops, and infrastructure. Building a few more well thought out roads in certain areas is crucial to the economic activity we need. Improved links between England and Wales are hugely important in the long term to sustain economic growth.