ON THE last day of the Assembly term, Edwina Hart, the Transport Minister, dropped a bombshell - the Welsh Government is going ahead with plans to build the M4 relief road.
This is a huge blow for Newport. The city will be completely bypassed and jobs will be lost as the road cuts through Newport’s dockside.
The decision was made despite mounting evidence that the billion pound motorway is going to be a costly mistake and despite an ongoing investigation by the Environment and Sustainability Committee that had yet to publish its findings.
The Minister claimed that the Welsh Government’s consultation had found no reasons why the plans shouldn’t be adopted.
But I have serious concerns about the environmental impact of the new road, for which I could devote a whole column and the astonishing estimated construction costs. With the new road costing £1 billion, the Government has blown all of Wales’ borrowing powers in one go on a hopelessly misguided scheme.
There will also likely be a 15-year wait for the road to be completed, meaning that it’ll be a long time before we see any benefits.
Of course, the stretch of M4 around the Brynglas Tunnels is a bottleneck that strangles economic development in South Wales. Businesses and travellers have been calling for improvements to be made for years and we should listen to them.
But the Government’s plans are not the only option.
Transport expert Professor Stuart Cole’s suggested ‘blue route’ would have delivered an improvement to the road in far less time and at much lower cost. Plaid Cymru has argued again and again that this plan would be preferable, but the Government didn’t even properly consider it in their consultation.
During the next Assembly term it is probable that the Assembly will gain greater borrowing powers. The Government’s decision today raises concerns about their ability to use those powers wisely and effectively to improve services and infrastructure across Wales.
For Wales to grow into a strong, thriving nation with a robust economy, we need to see a Government that balances prudency with ambition. I think the billion pound M4 relief road decision suggests that we are instead watching a Government that makes poor decisions without proper democratic scrutiny.
The Government will face significant opposition to these plans from all sides. I will continue to voice my disapproval and fight to try and prevent a disastrous mistake.