THREE years on from a fire that ripped through the Brynglas tunnels and brought the M4 to a halt in South Wales, the Welsh Government is preparing to start a series of works to boost their safety next year.

Edwina Hart, minister for the economy, science and transport, has agreed to employ contractors to develop proposals for refurbishing and improving “life safety measures” in the tunnels.

The works will include improving lighting in the notorious M4 bottleneck – with the westbound tunnel having been fitted out with temporary strip lighting since the 2011 fire.

Gwent Tory AM William Graham welcomed the plans but said they meant more disruption for motorists.

Motorists faced gridlock across South Wales on July 26 2011 when a lorry caught fire in the westbound Brynglas tunnel.

No one was injured but the blaze damaged the tunnel’s lighting, with a temporary system put in place after the fire which remains in use now.

According to the Welsh Government the minister for economy, science and transport has agreed the engagement of an employers agent to develop proposals for refurbishing and improving life safety measures to a tunnel which forms part of the "strategic trunk road network" in South East Wales.

A Welsh Government spokesman confirmed the work would be in both tunnels and said: “The proposed works include a new road surface, enhanced tunnel lining, drainage, lighting and other works to increase resilience and improve protection of the traveling public in the event of a fire.”

Work is due to start next year and be completed in 2016. £40 million has been allocated to the project over two years.

Newport-based Conservative AM William Graham, shadow minister for business, said: “While we welcome the long overdue work to upgrade the tunnels and repair damage from the westbound tunnel fire three years ago, these plans clearly mean further disruption for the long-suffering motorist.

"The work must be undertaken as quickly as possible and as far as possible outside peak commuter hours to avoid the sort of misery experienced all too often on the M4 around Newport.

“While these upgrades are welcome and long-overdue, they fall far short of the M4 relief road needed to relieve congestion on the M4, which Labour should have built in the years of plenty, the early 2000s, when they were spending public money like it grew on trees.”