The Anonymous Widower

M4 Relief Road: Five Things The Planning Inspector Said

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is two of the introductory paragraphs.

Until First Minister Mark Drakeford cancelled it, despite the conclusions of a planning inspector.

After months of studying the evidence in a public inquiry, Bill Wadrup said there was a “compelling case” to build the relief road.

I have read a lot about this relief road and something definitely needs to be done to ease the problems of going between England and South Wales.

On the one hand my environmental and non-driving thoughts, lead me to conclude that the road shouldn’t be built and more transport should be transferred to rail.

But on the other hand, my economic thoughts say that it should be built.

What Happens Now?

In this second article on the BBC, this is said about the stance of the various politicians.

The plans have proved politically divisive too – there has been significant opposition in Labour and some ministers are thought to oppose the scheme.

Plaid Cymru is firmly against, while the newly-formed Brexit Party is backing the road.

Some Labour Newport politicians – particularly those from the Newport West constituency – have lobbied for the road to be built.

Labour AM Jayne Bryant said: “Air pollution is a serious public heath issue because of the congestion on the M4.

“The vast amount of traffic on the M4 around Newport is not local to Newport – that’s why public transport alone will not solve it.”

Plans for the scheme were revived in 2013 after the UK government offered borrowing powers that would allow for the upgrade.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron called the Brynglas tunnels “a foot on the windpipe of the Welsh economy” – and the UK government remains a supporter of the scheme.

Economics could mean that a new Welsh Government, will change their mind. Especially, if the M4 relief road becomes an election issue.

As I write this, news is expected of the closure of Ford’s Bridgend factory.

I doubt this is down to the state of the M4, but getting trucks to and from South Wales will become an increasing logistics nightmare. It may mean, that businesses thinking of setting up a Welsh factory will look elsewhere.

The Railway Must Be Key

The only alternative to the M4 is to make more use of the railway.

The Welsh Government is planning the following.

  • An extensive South Wales Metro, with new routes, trains and some new stations.
  • More Park-and-Ride stations on the South Wales Main Line.
  • Extension of Cardiff station.

But is it enough?

Probably not!

  • Does the double-track Severn Tunnel have enough capacity for all the trains to and from a hopefully-expanding Welsh economy?
  • Can freight trains get easily to and from the Channel Tunnel, Felixstowe, Liverpool, London and Southampton?
  • Is the rail route for travellers between South Wales and Heathrow an incentive to drive?
  • Are services between South Wales and Birmingham and Manchester a joke?

A lot of money needs to be spent!

And much of it in England not Wales!

Frederick Snow Was Right

In The Severn Barrage, I wrote about Frederick Snow’s plan for a tidal power station and airport in the Severn Estuary, based on a barrage.

I believe that if the Severn Barrage had been build correctly in the 1970s, that a new Southern M4 and rail route could have been built on top of the barrage.


It’s a mess!

In my view the most likely solution will be that traffic on the M4 gets so bad, that travellers and freight will move or get moved to rail.




June 6, 2019 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , ,


  1. The end of the Severn Bridge Toll is apparantly what led to the increase in traffic. This is a clear positive example of how road pricing works. Any Economist or indeed knowledgeable Transport Planner would have foreseen this.

    The problem is, noone did.

    Comment by Tim Regester | June 6, 2019 | Reply

    • Politics is about power! Not about solutions! Removing the tolls, was a massive bribe like Sadiq Khan’s fare freeze.

      I’m sure Mark Drakeford and Sadiq Khan are pleased as they’re in office!

      Comment by AnonW | June 6, 2019 | Reply

  2. I’ve never really understood how moving traffic to rail is going to solve this sort of problem, as you end up just moving congestion from the roads to the railways. In which case, you need to build new railway lines, and you end up with the same problem of where to put them. Rail freight is based on moving bulky items, and isn’t really suitable for the large amount of road freight which is moving lots of small items between distribution centres and from there to the end customer, business or domestic. Currently, rail can claim to be more environmentally friendly, but that advantage will fade away as road vehicles are electrified. If you want speed, air freight is always going to be superior, and I would also expect small electric aircraft, maybe even unmanned for freight, to come into operation over the next few years.

    Comment by Peter Robins | June 6, 2019 | Reply

  3. With modern trains, the key to increasing capacity is to use digital signalling and have 100 mph freight trains. I suspect state-of-the-art signalling and faster freight could squeeze several more trains through the Severn Tunnel.

    Digital signalling is down to Network Rail and they are starting installation, after a successful introduction on Thameslink.

    eaning freight companies from their beloved Class 66 locomotives to ones like the new Stadler Class 93 locomotives is not going to be easy.

    How many cars would a third train in each hour between London and Cardiff take off the M4?

    Comment by AnonW | June 6, 2019 | Reply

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