FRESH concerns have been raised about the fragility of Newport’s transport network after two recent incidents on the M4 brought the city to a standstill.

Police closed a section of the motorway on Saturday, September 9, after a girl fell from a bridge, with a scheduled weekend closure already in place between junctions 25A (Grove Park) and junction 26 (Malpas) for waterproofing works.

Officers were back on the M4 yesterday morning, Tuesday, September 12, after a collision between two heavy goods vehicles which resulted in 45-minute delays.

Problems on the M4 have have a strong ripple effect on the rest of the city's roads as traffic increases on the SDR, A48 and other key routes, which was evident yesterday as parts of the network came to a standstill

Leader of Newport Conservatives, Cllr Matthew Evans, says the “gridlock” is becoming a more common fixture on the region's roads.

“Firstly, I want to separate the tragic incident of someone falling off a bridge from the general mayhem, and I think people will understand that,” Cllr Evans said.

South Wales Argus: Police closed a section of the M4 on SaturdayPolice closed a section of the M4 on Saturday (Image: Traffic Wales)

“We have been inundated with social media posts of people talking about the weekend gridlock and it’s not just the weekend. It’s getting more and more frequent.

“People come to work in Newport and get stuck in traffic jams. We need to be saying we are open for business and, at the moment, people are crawling along at 15 miles an hour.”

Newport’s public transport network has been rocked by strike action on the rails and Newport Bus resorting to a reduced timetable, in part due to the imminent switch to 20mph – though the service was already “going backwards”, Cllr Evans says.

“I still think that we need to get back to the M4 relief road. Something must be done and they can’t just bury their heads in the sand in hope it’s going to go away.

“I know some people use the argument of more traffic but by that logic we wouldn’t have built the M4 in the first place and we’d still be living in tents.”

Most members of the city's Business Improvement District continue to cite a relief road as the “best solution” to the bottlenecks near the Brynglas Tunnels, says Newport BID manager Kevin Ward.

“The vast majority of city centre businesses rely on road transport for their staff travel, deliveries and supply chains and the M4 is an inevitable and important part of this.

“Businesses in Newport have suffered from the M4 around the city not being adequate for the best part of 30 years,” said Mr Ward.

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The Welsh Government shelved plans for a 14-mile, six-lane relief road in 2019, with First Minister Mark Drakeford saying he attached “greater weight” to the projected environmental impact.

The Gwent Levels relief road would have been the most expensive infrastructure project in Welsh Government history.

Darren Tudor, 55, who lives on top of the Brynglas Tunnels, believes the city’s road network is too fragile.

“If one road gets blocked, that’s it – Newport is a nightmare. The Old Green area is the worst. Newport comes to a standstill if it stops.South Wales Argus: Newport comes to a standstillNewport comes to a standstill (Image: Sam Portillo)“I think the SDR should go around the city, like the M25 does around London,” Mr Tudor said.

Helen Myatt, 54, from Malpas, said: “It can be a pain but there’s nothing we can do about it. There was so much happening on the weekend, Newport was in gridlock.

“I had a nightmare getting back from Coldra. We went through the backroads but everyone else was doing it as well.”

South Wales Argus: It can be a pain but there's nothing we can do about itIt can be a pain but there's nothing we can do about it (Image: Sam Portillo)The South East Wales Transport Commission, born out of the government’s decision to abandon the relief road, has recommended an “integrated network” of transport to alleviate pressure on the region’s roads.

Each of the 58 recommendations from Lord Burns were accepted in principle and thought to be congruent with the Wales Transport Strategy, which aims to reduce the number of vehicles on the road by increasing the number of public transport passengers.

One of the most ambitious recommendations is the construction of six new train stations between Cardiff and the River Severn: Newport Road (Cardiff), Cardiff Parkway (St Mellons), Newport West, Newport East (Somerton), Llanwern and Magor. 

A Welsh Government spokesperson said they were “pushing forward” with the Commission's recommendations to improve transport in south east Wales.

“Later this autumn, Transport for Wales will hold public consultations on increasing the capacity of the SW Mainline railway and the design work for the five new stations on it.

“Projects like this can give people high quality, convenient alternatives to car trips on the M4.”

Newport City Council also point to the Burns Delivery Unit, responsible for implememting the Commission's recommendations, as a key source of action in reducing traffic congestion.

"One of the ways that the council is working to reduce traffic congestion is by working with Welsh government and Transport for Wales on implementing the recommendations of the South East Wales Transport Commission," a council spokesperson said.

"The recommendations set out a plan for a network of travel alternatives within the south-east. They are designed to make it easier for people to travel in Newport and the wider region by public transport or by active travel.

"The council is not responsible for the management of the M4, which is managed by the South Wales Trunk Road Agent on behalf of Welsh government."