IT is a question that has frustrated residents, businesses and politicians for decades – how do you solve Chepstow’s congestion issues?

The A48 links south west Wales to south east England but traffic bottlenecks have suffocated the town, with levels of air pollution rivalling that of cities.

With the end of the Severn Bridge tolls and thousands of new homes planned either side of the River Wye, things are only going to get worse.

But a new report has suggested that a bypass around Chepstow, potentially costing more than £100 million, could be one of several solutions to the problem.

The M48 Severn Bridge

A new motorway junction along the M48 near the St Pierre golf resort and improved rail services, projects which could cost up to £15 million each, have also been recommended for further consideration.

The suggestions come from a transport study jointly commissioned by Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire councils, with statistics provided by Welsh Government and Highways England.

Its release has been welcomed by Jez Becker, a Liberal Democrat councillor and founder of the Chepstow and Sedbury Bypass Action Group.

Cllr Jez Becker at the air quality monitoring station in Chepstow. Jez Becker at the air quality monitoring station in Chepstow.

The action group, among other independent groups and individuals, has long campaigned for a solution to Chepstow’s traffic problem.

“The study is long overdue, but it backs up everything we’ve been talking about for years,” said Cllr Becker.

“Whatever we do it’s going to be too late, but we’ve got to get started.”

READ MORE: Future development could increase air pollution, say council

Congestion is ‘hampering the future growth and development’ of Chepstow, wider Monmouthshire and southwest Gloucestershire, says the report.

Similar things had been said about the Severn Bridge tolls, which the Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, described as ‘psychological barriers’ between Welsh economic prosperity.

Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns (left) with Chepstow conservative councillors Martin Brady (centre) and David Dovey (right)

But Chepstow’s roads will be tested in the post-tolls transition, with traffic on the A48 expected to rise by around 23 per cent in the short term. By 2024, this could rise by a further 31 per cent.

Bottlenecks at the A48/A466 High Beech roundabout will also be exacerbated, with roads expected to reach their peak capacity this year – five years earlier than anticipated.

The study has outlined a strategic case for 20 schemes to alleviate congestion in Chepstow, but the three ‘long-term’ options recommended for further scrutiny include a bypass between Beachley and Sedbury.

READ MORE: Fresh calls for Chepstow bypass to ease traffic

Building a bypass is not new proposal, with Gwent County Council entertaining the idea – but never following through with it – in the 1980s and 1990s.

The proposed bypass is like its predecessor in that it would pass through Thornwell, which is represented on Monmouthshire County Council by Labour’s Armand Watts.

“I was mayor the last time we went through this process and I remember how heated, complicated and emotive the debate was," said Cllr Watts.

“These issues haven’t really gone away for local people, and something seriously needs to be done."

Cllr Watts is also disappointed with Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire councils entertaining major housing developments despite existing infrastructural issues.

Nearly 350 homes are earmarked at the former Mabey Bridge shipyard in Chepstow, a development which has attracted hundreds of objections raising concerns about its potential impact on the town’s infrastructure.

Cllr Watts said: “You have hundreds of homes planned within a square mile of each other. What we’re facing is the biggest carpark on the Welsh border.”

Concerns have also been raised by residents living at the Bayfields in Chepstow, where up to 200 homes are planned to be built.

Shaun Hartley of the Bayfield Residents’ Association said: “Chepstow has neither the resources nor the infrastructure to support the proposed development.

“The local primary school, doctors and dentists are all at capacity and Chepstow is at breaking point.”

David Davies MP and resident Shaun Hartley survey the proposed Bayfields development site in Chepstow

David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, also urged authorities to find new ways for developers to contribute towards infrastructure investments, especially in a ‘small town which is already full’.

Around 1,400 homes in total are planned for the Chepstow and Severnside areas of Monmouthshire, with a further 1,800 homes expected in Lydney.

The study warns that the housing growth in Lydney alone is likely to increase traffic flow on the A48 by around 70 movements at peak times.

Developments on the Gloucestershire side of the River Wye have added further pressure to Chepstow's roads

Another potential solution is a new M48 junction on the outskirts of Chepstow which, the report suggests, would relieve High Beech roundabout – but not the A48 into Chepstow.

Hardwick Hill becomes a choke point in heavy traffic and has been an air quality management area since 2007.

In 2016, it exceeded air pollution limits set by the World Health Organisation, registering high levels of pollutants than Newport.

Chepstow councillor David Dovey says the air pollution issues, combined with general congestion, has reached ‘crisis point’.

Councillor David Dovey

“At peak times you can see queues from the roundabout blocking the top of Chepstow, one ribbon of headlights stretching into the distance,” said the Conservative councillor.

“We’ve been banging on about these issues for years and authorities on both sides have turned a blind eye to it.”

The final option on the table involves improving rail services by increasing the number of direct services to Bristol from Chepstow, Severn Tunnel Junction and Lydney

“Improved rail service frequencies to Bristol could help to achieve modal shift along the A48 corridor, and thus address some of the issues of congestion,” the report says.

Better park and ride and interchange facilities at Chepstow, Severn Tunnel Junction and Lydney could also be explored.

Improvements could be sought at Severn Tunnel Junction to get more people from Chepstow and Lydney using public transport rathern than their own

But with no single identified pot of funding for high value capital schemes in Wales or England, uncertainty remains over how any project would be funded.

Monmouthshire council leader Peter Fox described funding as a ‘massive’ issue, adding: “We will need the Welsh and UK governments to step up, come together and work with us in Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire to find a solution that benefits us all.”

Cllr Fox expressed his preference for a bypass and, while welcoming the end of the bridge tolls, accepted that it posed new challenges for the area.

“The bypass is a fundamental piece of the puzzle,” said Cllr Fox.

Monmouthshire council leader Peter Fox

“When you open up opportunities for an area, there is going to be some dilemmas to deal with.

“We want growth in Monmouthshire but it’s clear that, post-tolls, there will be extra pressure coupled with new developments along the border.

“It’s a perfect storm.”