NEWPORT councillors vowed to keep up the pressure on the National Assembly to build the M4 Relief Road as soon as possible.

Members criticised last week's decision by Transport Minister Sue Essex to shelve plans for the road between Magor and Castleton, in the hope a package of other measures will reduce congestion.

At Tuesday's meeting of the full council, leader Sir Harry Jones said: "There has been a failure to recognise the economic impact the decision will have on South East and West Wales.

"Much of industry and commerce is highly dependent on efficient access to the motorway network.

"My concern is that the consequence of the delayed decision is going to be gridlock. "We need to address the severe congestion on the Newport section of the M4."

Councillor Bob Bright, cabinet member for community safety, added that he wanted to draw to Ms Essex's attention that the M4 in Newport was already operating above capacity.

"Putting a quart into a pint pot just doesn't work," he said. "There are already people being killed and maimed on that road and anyone who uses the motorway at peak times knows that if you try and get on at a junction you have to close your eyes and drive into a small gap.

"This is an escalating problem and it clearly needs to be addressed." Announcing her decision last Thursday, Ms Essex said she would "never say never", but hoped the following measures would ease congestion on the M4:

Opening the Ebbw Vale passenger railway; A new bus strategy for South East Wales. Building the Newport Southern Distributor Road.

The cabinet member for transport and sustainable development, Councillor Graham Dally, said: "I don't know what Ebbw Vale has got to do with the M4 Relief Road when we can't even get the trains into Newport.

"And, in future, as soon as we have an accident on the motorway around the Brynglas Tunnels the police will shut it because there will be the alternative route of the SDR to throw all the traffic down.

"The SDR is not being built to those standards to take all that traffic. "The pressure has got to be kept on from this authority to get this road as soon as possible."