A CANDIDATE to replace Carwyn Jones as first minister has suggested he would consider backing a cheaper version of the £1.4 billion M4 relief road scheme.

The Welsh Government's finance secretary Mark Drakeford, who is so far the only official candidate running to replace Mr Jones when he leaves the role at the end of the year, has said a cheaper version of the long-awaited new stretch of road would be "attractive".

A public inquiry into the scheme finished in March and is expected to publish its conclusions in the coming months.

Although the Welsh Government's preferred option is the so-called black route, which would involve a new stretch of motorway running south of Newport, bypassing the often-congested Brynglas Tunnels, in an interview with the BBC Mr Drakeford said he would consider alternatives according to the result of the inquiry.

He said: "I'm the finance minister in the Welsh Government. If we could have a solution that cost us less then of course that would be attractive to me, because there's always other things we would be able to do with that money.

"But what I have done is make sure that if the proposal that the government has put to the inquiry is the one that the inquiry endorses, that the inquiry and others know we are in the position practically to take that forward."

He also said the money set aside for the project, currently predicted to cost at least £1.4 billion, "would be there for other possibilities if the local public inquiry were to propose that a better solution was available and that eventually came through the government's consideration".

Welsh Conservative shadow economy secretary Russell George said the Welsh Government's position on the project was "unravelling".

“This apparent change of heart only adds to the chaos and confusion around the scheme," he said.

The so-called black route would involve a new 15-mile stretch of motorway between Magor and Castleton, cutting through Newport Docks and part of the Gwent Levels.

Alternatives considered by the inquiry include the so-called blue route, which would involve converting the Southern Distributor Road into a dual carriageway.

Mr Jones is due to stand down as first minister and leader of Welsh Labour in the autumn, with a replacement to be in place by the end of the year.