WORKS linked to the proposed M4 Relief Road at Newport Docks have seen an additional £31million outlined by Welsh Government to cover "risks and contingencies", an inquiry has heard.

A public inquiry into the M4 Relief Road met yesterday to discuss the proposed new motorway which would depart from the existing M4 at junction 23A.

It would pass across a massive new bridge over the River Usk and connect at the existing junction 29 Castleton - pushing a potential opening date, as previously reported, to 2023, and increasing costs by about 10 per cent, to £1.3billion.

Other concessions to the Association or British Ports (APB), which runs Newport Docks, will also see an additional £136million added to the bill for the preferred 'black route'.

As the inquiry reached its 70th day yesterday, the Welsh Government outlined the benefit to cost ratios of alternative routes for the road proposed by objectors including estimates for the green route – west of the Wilcrick Route and M48 / B4245 connection.

The “economic appraisal” on the route was updated since March 2017, considering several factors from Newport Docks works to the UK Government’s decision to abolish the Severn Crossing tolls and included “deductions” or “additions” in cost for December 2017.

The inquiry heard the published scheme estimate has increased by £190million and the green route has increased by £193million in overall terms over the above period.

But green route objector, Mike Smith, highlighted that the new economic appraisal listed capital costs for the Newport Docks works as £167million in contrast to the £135million figure.

Stephen Bussell, responding on behalf of Welsh Government, said that the figure addressed “risk” and “contingencies” related to the project.

The Welsh Government – in response to a question from inquiry leader William Wadrup – added there was no figure given on how much of the funds would be carried on to the public sector and taxpayer.

Traffic consultant and Welsh Government witness Bryan Whittaker also told the inquiry that the green route would leave less available road space for traffic flows and affect journey times.

The removal of the Severn tolls would aggravate congestion problems around J23 and J23A and “exacerbate the problem", he added.

The inquiry will next meet tomorrow at 10am

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