THE variable speed limit zone on the M4 around Newport should be removed, according to the transport commission set up to tackle congestion around the city.

In its place, the commission recommends an average speed zone, with a fixed 50 miles per hour limit, stretching from Coldra (Junction 24) to Tredegar Park (Junction 28).

The change is one of three 'fast-track' measures recommended by the South East Wales Transport Commission today (Tuesday).


The commission was set up by Wales' first minister, Mark Drakeford, to find alternative solutions to improving traffic flow around Newport after he pulled the plug on the M4 relief road in June.

In today's report, the commission recommends:

  • Scrapping the variable speed limit zone in favour of a fixed 50mph average speed limit.
  • Preventing last-minute lane changes on the approach to the Brynglas Tunnels.
  • Widening the role of traffic officers in responding to, and clearing, accidents.

The commission's proposals will now be passed to Welsh Government ministers, who will decide if, and when, to implement them.

The current variable speed limit zone was activated in 2016, comprising a series of electronic signs which can be set independently to different speed limits.

A camera is located behind the signs, and are automatically adjusted to catch drivers who travel faster than the speed limit.

According to GoSafe, the Welsh road safety partnership, the idea behind the current scheme is to keep traffic flowing, even at peak times.

But the commission found that the variable speed limit "often lead[s] to breakdown of flow on the M4 around Newport, especially on the approaches to the Brynglas tunnels".

While the variable cameras work well during quieter times of the day, the report adds, they have had a "limited impact" on improving traffic flow during peak times, and can cause "harsh" accelerating and braking from some drivers.

A fixed average speed limit of 50mph, the commission proposes, should "reduce driver confusion" and encourage motorists to stick to a more consistent speed.

The report also recommends measures to reduce the number of lane changes on the westbound approach to the Brynglas Tunnels, when three lanes become two.

Improved lane markings and road numbers painted on the tarmac, as well as bollards to prevent drivers making last-minute lane changes, could improve journey times.

The commission also says traffic officers, who patrol the M4, could play a more significant role in clearing accidents – especially on stretches of the motorway where there is no hard shoulder.

The report recommends reviewing traffic officer response times and making sure each officer carries all the equipment needed to clear a crash or incident.

NEWPORT West AM Jayne Bryant has welcomed the initial proposals.

“As residents in Newport, we know that the congestion on the M4 affects many more than just those travelling on it," she said. "In terms of pollution and congestion the people of Newport are impacted significantly.

"Whenever there is an accident on the M4, it is the roads outside our schools and homes that become gridlocked.

“The commission and Welsh Government must act quickly and decisively.  

"This significant problem needs ambitious but realistic solutions to make a real difference."

Wales' transport minister Ken Skates said he was "grateful to the commission and appreciate the urgency they have shown in proposing these early practical steps, which are designed to make an immediate impact on traffic flow".

He said the commission's work would complement existing Welsh Government projects such as the South Wales Metro.

“These measures will need to be complemented with improvements to the wider transport network, particularly on our railways," Mr Skates added. "That work is already well under way, and I am committed to going further still to ensure we tackle congestion and improve connectivity across the whole region."

Today's report is the first stage of recommendations published by the commission, which will now continue to explore other ways of improving traffic in and around Newport.