EDITOR'S CHAIR: New M4 will be a relief for everyone
10:02am Thursday 26th September 2013 in News
LIKE most Newport residents, I received the M4 relief road consultation document in the post this week.
I have to say I was tempted to send it back to the Welsh Government with 'just build the bloody thing' scrawled across the front of it.
I've been working at the Argus - with the exception of a four-year period when I edited a daily newspaper in England - for almost 25 years. The M4 relief road has been on the news agenda for most of that period.
And while the debates and seemingly-endless consultations have dragged through the decades the traffic problems in and around Newport have worsened.
The opening of the Southern Distributor Road brought some short-term relief but it becomes just part of a gridlocked city when there is any problem on the M4 around Newport.
The stark reality is the motorway around Newport is not fit for purpose.
The major problem has always been the stretch leading to and from the Brynglas tunnels - a three-lane motorway narrows to two lanes and when accidents happen they tend to happen on that part of the M4.
Yet this is one of the busiest stretches of motorway in Britain and is the key arterial route in and out of Wales.
The M4 between junction 24 at The Coldra and junction 28 at Tredegar Park is an absolutely vital link for hundreds of businesses employing thousands of people.
Everyone has known about the problems with the M4 around Newport for decades. And yet we still wait for something to happen.
The latest consultation comes a year after the last one. That looked at a number of options for the M4 corridor. This one focuses on one - a new motorway from Magor to Castleton that, controversially, would be built across parts of the Gwent Levels.
It is, in all but name, the same route proposed for the original M4 relief road a decade ago.
That was scrapped on cost grounds and it is impossible to ignore the fact that money remains the biggest stumbling block for the new proposal.
Westminster will have to grant the Welsh Government new borrowing powers if the new M4 is to be built.
An announcement is yet to be made on this although Chancellor George Osborne has dropped enough hints over the last six months to suggest it will happen.
The Welsh Government certainly seems confident enough to launch this week's new consultation, which will continue until just before Christmas.
I haven't mentioned the environmental concerns surrounding the proposed new M4 yet but I am certainly not ignoring them.
There is already vociferous opposition to any part of the new motorway being built across the Levels and these protests will undoubtedly increase, particularly if the proposal gets the go-ahead.
Tom Clarke, chief executive of the Gwent Wildlife Trust, is obviously opposed to the plan because of its potential impact on wildlife. It is an opinion I can understand and respect.
But I disagree with Mr Clarke's view that a new M4 would act as a Newport bypass. The current M4 can already be used in such a way if drivers so wish.
The new motorway will ease congestion, making it easier to get in and out of Newport and provide new opportunities for businesses, including many in the city.
The South Wales Chamber of Commerce suggests the M4 relief road could be worth in excess of £2 billion to the local economy.
This whole issue has dragged on for far too long. Former Newport council leader Matthew Evans says the project runs the risk of 'death by consultation' and I tend to agree.
Let's get the finance sorted, find a way around the environmental issues, and get this road built.
It is too important to the economic future of Newport and the surrounding area to continue to delay a project that should have been completed years ago.
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