THE Welsh Government will make up to £1 billion available to solve traffic problems on the M4 around Newport, according to the first minister.

Mr Drakeford abandoned plans to build the so-called 'black route' relief road – a stretch of virgin motorway to the south of Newport – on June 1.

The following day, he set up a commission, chaired by Lord Terry Burns, to find alternatives to solving Newport's motorway congestion.

Today (Friday) at a Welsh Assembly committee meeting in Wrexham, Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay asked the first minister if the money that had been available for the previous relief road proposal would now be available to the commission.

In reply, Mr Drakeford said: "I absolutely want to give that assurance...We were prepared to spend £1 billion on solving the problem around Newport, and [Lord Burns] has the first call on all of that £1 billion.

"I don't want money to be an inhibitor to his ability to come forward with new solutions."


Mr Ramsay then asked about the timescale of the commission.

Mr Drakeford said he expected a first report by the end of the calendar year, and would then let Lord Burns advise him on how long the commission needed to work further on its ideas.

The first minister was optimistic about the chances of finding a solution to the M4 traffic woes around Newport.

"I think there'll be a wider repertoire of ideas as a result of people people not going over the old ground, but genuinely focusing on how to make...a more immediate difference," he said.

Mr Drakeford also spoke about his reasons for cancelling the relief road project.

He said the road had previously been estimated to cost £960 million, which could have been covered in its entirety by the £1 billion the Welsh Government was able to borrow – without needing to divert money from other investments.

But by the time Mr Drakeford took over as first minister, he added, the cost had risen to a projected £1.6 billion, excluding VAT, and was rising.

He said he was faced with a situation in which a minimum of £600 million would have to be taken from things the Welsh Government had already committed to doing, in order to fund the relief road.

"In the end, I decided that it wasn't an outcome I could support," Mr Drakeford said. "Now I've said, and I want to say again, the M4 difficulties around Newport have to be solved, and that [regarding] the original sum of nearly £1 billion, they have first call on that."