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.