|If the political capital isn't there for the £1.1bn M4 'black route', how long will drivers have to wait before the era of gridlock comes to an end?|
Source: Wales Online
After the political posturing in the Welsh Assembly which resulted in Carwyn Jones being renominated as First Minister, the price of his success is becoming clear, the likelihood of utter chaos as the economy of Wales is placed at the back of the queue.
Newport is the gateway to the economic heartland of Wales. Already chaotic during rush hours, driving through Newport can quickly turn into a nightmare with tail backs of 10 miles and more not uncommon after accidents, see examples here, here, and here, with consequent gridlock at motorway junctions for miles around. Visitors to Rugby Internationals and Soccer games add even more misery to a chaotic situation.
Not only are delays bad for the economy of Wales but the disruption caused by missed appointments at hospitals and surgeries adds additional burdens to already overstretched public services. So what can the politicians be thinking about other than self perpetuation?
A 'fly through' video here shows the route the £1bn M4 motorway relief road could take around Newport. In 2015 a Welsh Government spokesman said:
"The M4 is much more than a motorway; it’s essential for the Welsh people and our economy. We need it to transport ourselves, our people, goods and services throughout Wales and beyond. We need it to reach ports and airports, and we need it to serve our thriving tourist industry.
"The problems around Newport discourage business investment, and are expected to get worse. We want to improve access to international markets. We need a transport system that improves our nation’s economic competitiveness and encourages jobs and growth. The M4 Corridor around Newport project is an essential part of our vision for an efficient integrated transport system.
"Complementary to this project, we are also taking forward a Cardiff Capital Region Metro to improve public transport within the region."
As the Editor of the South Wales Argus wrote yesterday in an open letter to the First Minister, when he first joined the Argus as a journalist in 1989, "the need for a relief road as a solution to the bottleneck on the M4 around Newport was high on the news agenda then. Yet almost 30 years later we are no further forward and the problems on the motorway, particularly around the Brynglas tunnels, have simply worsened."
Yes there are objections about the threat to nature and the effect on individual businesses but that's life. Most businesses are in favour of the project. An urgent solution is needed for the greater good.
On current projections the preferred route project would not be completed until 2021 if the go ahead were given now. David Cameron has urged the Welsh Government "to build an M4 relief road as soon as possible for the sake of business. He said ministers in Cardiff Bay had been granted powers to borrow up to £500m for the project, calling the route a 'vital transport artery'. Mr Cameron said the delay in building the relief road was 'damaging' business in south Wales".
The economy of Wales is playing second fiddle to the ambitions of Senedd Assembly Members. Who needs them? In the Senedd elections the 'Abolish the Welsh Assembly' Party polled more votes than the Green Party which pledged to oppose the M4 relief road.
The 'success' of UKIP which resulted in disgraced MP Neil Hamilton being given another political platform must be a kick in the backside for UKIP voters as he deposed UKIP's leader in Wales to pick up an additional £20,000 a year "taking his salary to £84,000 with control of a publicly-funded group budget of around £200,000. In addition, each of the seven UKIP AMs is entitled to employ three full-time members of staff".
It would be interesting to see the result of a re-run of the election but for now the people of Wales must sweat it out while South East Wales grinds to a halt. So much for 'progress' through devolved government.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has submitted a formal objection to the M4 relief road plan. The trust said it [the"black route"] will take an area of wet grassland and ditch rich in rare wildlife that includes meadow thistle, otters, water voles and ancient pollarded willows - representative of many parts of the Levels expected to be compulsory purchased for the relief road development, much of which is nationally designated for its wildlife importance.
No doubt NRW would prefer a plague of frogs to the pollutants caused by constant gridlock but a solution must be found if the economy of Wales is not to suffer even worse problems.
As local MP, Paul Flynn said, Plaid Cymru, UKIP and others prefer an upgrade of existing roads around Newport, including the A48 Southern Distributor Road (SDR) which runs along the city's outskirts to the south.
Referring to the SDR proposal Mr Flynn said: "The blue route scheme would bring back congestion that the city suffered before the opening of the Southern Distributor Road in 2004, and that its role to re-distribute traffic 'east to west, north to south' would be destroyed. He said this would make Newport 'a traffic hell of gridlock and pollution'. Mr Flynn argued the blue route was 'favoured by people from elsewhere in Wales who long to pick up the scraps if the black [route] solution, is dumped'."