THE NEWSDESK: We need to apply common sense to the new M4 route

MAJOR EMPLOYER: Newport Docks

MAJOR EMPLOYER: Newport Docks

First published in News
Last updated
South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

THIS struck me the other night.

The new £1 billion M4 is due to be completed in 2022. That is presumably unless there is a lengthy legal challenge or several legal challenges. Which would push the opening date back even further.

But let's say, for argument's sake, that the date is 2022.

That is still four years after the UK's spaceport is due to open. Let that sink in.

A process which has already taken 20 years - the M4 relief road was first mooted in a different route through the Gwent Levels in the mid 1990s - will take eight more even if there is absolutely no hitch whatsoever. And spacecraft could be landing at a site somewhere in the UK before we solve the M4 bottleneck problem.

So that's 30 years of consultation, more consultation, prevarication and yet more consultation.

Many of us who commute to work in Newport are now sitting with our heads in our hands wondering if we will ever be able to avoid the traffic mayhem with which we are faced on a regular basis.

Or will aliens be making contact before we have some sort of resolution?

The other M4 problem-solving options put forward but discounted in the latest round of consultations included increasing the number of tunnels at Brynglas which could have seen the demolition of hundreds of city homes and businesses and taken even longer.

It was never going to be an option which was backed by the people of this city, and one crash or fire in the tunnels would still have caused gridlock.

The potentially far cheaper option of upgrading the A48 (SDR) was problematic in engineering terms - the SDR has many sets of traffic lights and roundabouts - and the so-called "blue route" option being put forward by Professor Stuart Cole, with a combination of SDR upgrade and its attendant difficulties and upgrading the old steelworks road, was not put forward to the public in that latest consultation

And now, of course, we find that the firm running Newport Docks, ABP, has serious and credible fears about the current favoured "black route".

A motorway across the docks would have a serious impact on a port which supports around 3,000 jobs in south Wales, bosses say, with the loss of quayside and a bridge which might restrict the height of shipping which uses it, making it a far less attractive proposition than other ports.

Matthew Kennerley, from ABP, said that a planned new bridge over the Usk could prevent up to 60 per cent of vessels entering the north dock.

But if plans go ahead he fears investors could consider the land blighted, meaning “nobody will touch it if they know there is an issue”. He said the docks provided just short of £190 million a year to the south Wales economy.

At the time the route proposals were last tabled for an M4 over the docks, in 2010, a bridge at a height of around 25.5m was proposed, he said. That would have a serious impact on larger shipping with any bridge needing to be at least 45m in height to enable the largest ships to use the docks.

Port director of ABP South Wales Mr Kennerley said: “People may want to relocate to another port, potentially even outside Wales. The impact could start sooner rather than later.”

He added: “We will need to consider our position now - we will still push to move the road slightly further north.”

Surely all these rounds of consultation were designed to listen to such credible fears and make amendments to routes where necessary?

How have we reached this stage without the views of such an important employer in the area being taken into account?

I would love to see this city properly served by a network of commuter railway stations to take traffic off the roads completely - I have said before that Newport's rail network is woefully inadequate.

But I doubt that would solve the M4 problems - this is a major route in and out of south Wales and there is always going to be a large flow of traffic on it.

We all know that doing nothing to solve this motorway bottleneck is not an option - we simply cannot go on like this, where a crash can close a motorway and mean people are sitting on the M4 or SDR for up to five hours.

There is no easy, perfect solution. There is going to be a cost to pay in terms of the environment and those who own land along the route.

What we desperately need now is some common sense.

Comments (10)

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2:02pm Sun 20 Jul 14

cjlinstrum says...

It's interesting that you mention how the blue route was not put before the public and it's interesting to wonder why. I don't have the answer, but it seems strange that a solution which has only a fraction of the environmental and socioeconomic impact of the black route, at a fraction of the cost is not being seriously considered. This, combined with better public transport and the continuing shift in working patterns (more people working at home, more flexible hours) could easily solve the M4 bottleneck. It seems the most sensible solution. So why does Edwina Hart want to ignore it?
It's interesting that you mention how the blue route was not put before the public and it's interesting to wonder why. I don't have the answer, but it seems strange that a solution which has only a fraction of the environmental and socioeconomic impact of the black route, at a fraction of the cost is not being seriously considered. This, combined with better public transport and the continuing shift in working patterns (more people working at home, more flexible hours) could easily solve the M4 bottleneck. It seems the most sensible solution. So why does Edwina Hart want to ignore it? cjlinstrum
  • Score: -12

4:41pm Sun 20 Jul 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

"Many of us who commute to work in Newport are now sitting with our heads in our hands wondering if we will ever be able to avoid the traffic mayhem with which we are faced on a regular basis

Taking the train could be one alternative in some cases.
"Many of us who commute to work in Newport are now sitting with our heads in our hands wondering if we will ever be able to avoid the traffic mayhem with which we are faced on a regular basis Taking the train could be one alternative in some cases. Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: -6

6:09pm Sun 20 Jul 14

DraigDun says...

Flying cars are set to go on sale in the US next year. Maybe there'll be no need for a relief road after all..

If anyone would like to explore the road close up, I've assembled it on Google Maps/Earth where you can zoom in and see exactly where it cuts across the city:
tinyurl.com/NewportM
4
Flying cars are set to go on sale in the US next year. Maybe there'll be no need for a relief road after all.. If anyone would like to explore the road close up, I've assembled it on Google Maps/Earth where you can zoom in and see exactly where it cuts across the city: tinyurl.com/NewportM 4 DraigDun
  • Score: 1

6:35pm Sun 20 Jul 14

KarloMarko says...

Why not book a five star hotel very near to where you work? And then charge it to your employer? Some of the very best people in Newport now do this so they are fresh for work. Why not ask your local AM for the forms and a pen. Don't build more roads....build more hotels! p.s. Its in the rules.
Why not book a five star hotel very near to where you work? And then charge it to your employer? Some of the very best people in Newport now do this so they are fresh for work. Why not ask your local AM for the forms and a pen. Don't build more roads....build more hotels! p.s. Its in the rules. KarloMarko
  • Score: 9

11:19pm Sun 20 Jul 14

charlie, newport says...

While the concerns raised by ABP need to be given careful consideration, the new fear of the protected route blighting the docks and deterring investment misses one important fact. The docks were already crossed by the previous legally protected route. Judging by the recent Argus articles about the thriving docks and investment there, the previous protected route had no such impact.
While the concerns raised by ABP need to be given careful consideration, the new fear of the protected route blighting the docks and deterring investment misses one important fact. The docks were already crossed by the previous legally protected route. Judging by the recent Argus articles about the thriving docks and investment there, the previous protected route had no such impact. charlie, newport
  • Score: -4

12:23am Mon 21 Jul 14

Johnb72 says...

Why can't in 2014 the tunnels be widened with modern engineering ability, I'm not buying it and few I think are. The only option is to Blitzkrieg the Gwent Levels and more than 7 sites on natural/scientific importance! Come on I thought the Welsh nation valued it's ecological heritage so why not set an example. And yes there will be lengthy legal hold ups the start of the road will impact the historic village of Magor hugely and instantly at the very start of its construction will impact upon Magor Marsh nature site.
If this happens the title of Black route will stick for the wrong reasons.
A Billion pounds and then some to make a historic mistake which our children will be regretting and paying for.
Why can't in 2014 the tunnels be widened with modern engineering ability, I'm not buying it and few I think are. The only option is to Blitzkrieg the Gwent Levels and more than 7 sites on natural/scientific importance! Come on I thought the Welsh nation valued it's ecological heritage so why not set an example. And yes there will be lengthy legal hold ups the start of the road will impact the historic village of Magor hugely and instantly at the very start of its construction will impact upon Magor Marsh nature site. If this happens the title of Black route will stick for the wrong reasons. A Billion pounds and then some to make a historic mistake which our children will be regretting and paying for. Johnb72
  • Score: 3

12:49am Mon 21 Jul 14

Johnb72 says...

One of the largest surviving areas of ancient grazing marshes and reen (drainage ditch) systems in Britain, the Gwent Levels is of national significance for its wildlife and archaeology.

Would only be improved by Light, Noise & chemical pollution from a 6 lane motorway.

And I thought the Welsh respected their natural treasures, Billion would make a cracking new hospital for Newport but no let's have a new road for 'big' business - In fact let's concrete over the beacons next and sell it to NCP. It's all about the Money.
One of the largest surviving areas of ancient grazing marshes and reen (drainage ditch) systems in Britain, the Gwent Levels is of national significance for its wildlife and archaeology. Would only be improved by Light, Noise & chemical pollution from a 6 lane motorway. And I thought the Welsh respected their natural treasures, Billion would make a cracking new hospital for Newport but no let's have a new road for 'big' business - In fact let's concrete over the beacons next and sell it to NCP. It's all about the Money. Johnb72
  • Score: 0

6:35am Mon 21 Jul 14

Woodgnome says...

Common sense and Edwina are mutually exclusive. Wales does not comrise the m4 corridor alone.
Common sense and Edwina are mutually exclusive. Wales does not comrise the m4 corridor alone. Woodgnome
  • Score: 0

11:17am Mon 21 Jul 14

exMark says...

Johnb72 wrote:
Why can't in 2014 the tunnels be widened with modern engineering ability, I'm not buying it and few I think are. The only option is to Blitzkrieg the Gwent Levels and more than 7 sites on natural/scientific importance! Come on I thought the Welsh nation valued it's ecological heritage so why not set an example. And yes there will be lengthy legal hold ups the start of the road will impact the historic village of Magor hugely and instantly at the very start of its construction will impact upon Magor Marsh nature site.
If this happens the title of Black route will stick for the wrong reasons.
A Billion pounds and then some to make a historic mistake which our children will be regretting and paying for.
The biggest problem would be that whilst they are being widened, the tunnels would have to be close. I'd imagine, that widenening them would take months.

We can't cope when the tunnel are closed for an hour, nevermind them being closed for months.

http://www.bbc.co.uk
/news/uk-wales-south
-east-wales-14288312
[quote][p][bold]Johnb72[/bold] wrote: Why can't in 2014 the tunnels be widened with modern engineering ability, I'm not buying it and few I think are. The only option is to Blitzkrieg the Gwent Levels and more than 7 sites on natural/scientific importance! Come on I thought the Welsh nation valued it's ecological heritage so why not set an example. And yes there will be lengthy legal hold ups the start of the road will impact the historic village of Magor hugely and instantly at the very start of its construction will impact upon Magor Marsh nature site. If this happens the title of Black route will stick for the wrong reasons. A Billion pounds and then some to make a historic mistake which our children will be regretting and paying for.[/p][/quote]The biggest problem would be that whilst they are being widened, the tunnels would have to be close. I'd imagine, that widenening them would take months. We can't cope when the tunnel are closed for an hour, nevermind them being closed for months. http://www.bbc.co.uk /news/uk-wales-south -east-wales-14288312 exMark
  • Score: 3

12:38am Tue 22 Jul 14

Johnb72 says...

exMark wrote:
Johnb72 wrote:
Why can't in 2014 the tunnels be widened with modern engineering ability, I'm not buying it and few I think are. The only option is to Blitzkrieg the Gwent Levels and more than 7 sites on natural/scientific importance! Come on I thought the Welsh nation valued it's ecological heritage so why not set an example. And yes there will be lengthy legal hold ups the start of the road will impact the historic village of Magor hugely and instantly at the very start of its construction will impact upon Magor Marsh nature site.
If this happens the title of Black route will stick for the wrong reasons.
A Billion pounds and then some to make a historic mistake which our children will be regretting and paying for.
The biggest problem would be that whilst they are being widened, the tunnels would have to be close. I'd imagine, that widenening them would take months.

We can't cope when the tunnel are closed for an hour, nevermind them being closed for months.

http://www.bbc.co.uk

/news/uk-wales-south

-east-wales-14288312
I see the problem with ' where does the tunnel traffic go' but don't think it justifies the black route. We need to think ahead and with a preservationist view, the days of calling people tree huggers & greenies has gone If we begin building across the wetlands may as well not bother recycling and go back to landfill and free carrier bags.
I still don't buy that modern engineering can't solve the tunnels upgrade and say again we should set the global example and be proud of it.
Look the tunnels need upgrading anyway and if the road becomes a trunk road you still have maintenance costs and fire risk.
[quote][p][bold]exMark[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Johnb72[/bold] wrote: Why can't in 2014 the tunnels be widened with modern engineering ability, I'm not buying it and few I think are. The only option is to Blitzkrieg the Gwent Levels and more than 7 sites on natural/scientific importance! Come on I thought the Welsh nation valued it's ecological heritage so why not set an example. And yes there will be lengthy legal hold ups the start of the road will impact the historic village of Magor hugely and instantly at the very start of its construction will impact upon Magor Marsh nature site. If this happens the title of Black route will stick for the wrong reasons. A Billion pounds and then some to make a historic mistake which our children will be regretting and paying for.[/p][/quote]The biggest problem would be that whilst they are being widened, the tunnels would have to be close. I'd imagine, that widenening them would take months. We can't cope when the tunnel are closed for an hour, nevermind them being closed for months. http://www.bbc.co.uk /news/uk-wales-south -east-wales-14288312[/p][/quote]I see the problem with ' where does the tunnel traffic go' but don't think it justifies the black route. We need to think ahead and with a preservationist view, the days of calling people tree huggers & greenies has gone If we begin building across the wetlands may as well not bother recycling and go back to landfill and free carrier bags. I still don't buy that modern engineering can't solve the tunnels upgrade and say again we should set the global example and be proud of it. Look the tunnels need upgrading anyway and if the road becomes a trunk road you still have maintenance costs and fire risk. Johnb72
  • Score: -1

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