A LONG-awaited decision on the M4 relief road could be announced within weeks.

Supporters and opponents of the scheme have been waiting for first minister Mark Drakeford to announce whether or not the project - currently estimated to cost more than £1.6 billion - will go ahead since he was elected to succeed Carwyn Jones in December.

The decision was put on hold after the Newport West by-election was called, with Mr Drakeford given official advice he could not make an announcement while the campaign was in progress.


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And, with the Welsh Assembly currently on Easter recess, the decision was again pushed back until the end of April at the earliest.

But, speaking to the Argus at the Welsh Labour spring conference, Mr Drakeford said he would be able to make a firm announcement within the first two weeks of the new Assembly term, which begins on Monday, April 29.

"I wasn’t able to make a decision during the Newport West by-election because the rules don’t allow it," he said.

"I don’t think it is right for me to make an announcement other than on the floor of the National Assembly - I would be in a great deal of trouble if I did, and in any case I think it's just the right thing to do.

"So, when we come back at the end of this holiday, I will make an early announcement.

"If I can announce a decision that is what I would like to do.

"If, for legal reasons and things being finalised, what I am able to do is announce the definitive timetable for the decision, then I will do that.

"One way or another I will make an early statement about the M4 relief road, and I will do it in front of the National Assembly."

The project, involving a new stretch of motorway running south of Newport between junction 23A at Magor and junction 29 at Castleton, bypassing the often-congested Brynglas Tunnels, has been on the drawing board for many years.

Supporters say it is vital for improving traffic links into south Wales.

But opponents have said it will only lead to more traffic, with others concerned about the impact on the protected Gwent Levels. A petition calling for the scheme to be rejected has been signed by more than 20,000 people.