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 | , , , , | 4 Comments

The Beginning Of A New Era

These words come from a the Head of Control Room Operations at National Grid in this article on the BBC, which is entitled UK achieves solar power record as temperatures soar.

This is the first two paragraphs of the article.

A record amount of solar power was generated on Friday as Britain basked in sunshine and temperatures of up to 28C, the National Grid has said.

It said 8.7 gigawatts (GW) had been generated at lunchtime, representing 24.3% of total generation across the UK.

When I was growing up in the 1960s, solar power was seen in pictures of space satellites and probes, but I can’t ever remember anyone saying that fifty years later, the UK would be generating around a quarter of its power from the sun.

I think it could be a case of you ain’t seen nothing yet!


  • The big development will be batteries, which will mean that micro-generators will be able to store their power for later use.
  • I also suspect that the proportion of UK solar power generation will rise due to the fall in the price of solar panels and the rise in their generating efficiency.
  • There will be new forms of solar panels, like these solar slates for use on traditional buildings or in conservation areas.
  • In a few years time, all large industrial buildings like farm barns, factory units and retail sheds will be built or retro-fitted with solar roofs.

Never underestimate the ingenuity of engineers and scientists, especially if there is money to be made in an ethical way.

We will still need to generate some electricity in conventional ways to fill in the gaps, when the wind isn’t blowing, the sun isn’t shining and it’s between the tides.

There will be some nuclear and probably some gas-powered stations. The former are generally good for constant load and the latter have the advantage, that they can be brought on stream quickly. Try doing that with a large coal or bio-mass powered power station.

We also have a need for more energy storage like Dinorwig in Wales. This massive system was built in the 1970s and has a lot of advantages including.

  • It will be operational for centuries.
  • It has a very high efficiency.
  • Once built it is zero carbon.
  • It has become a tourist attraction.
  • It is an ideal partner to wind and solar power.

We need more electric mountains.

Sir Frederick Snow’s plan for barraging the River Severn with a high and low lake separated by a central spine, was designed to incorporate energy storage.

It is a tragedy, that we do not make use of the massive amounts of free power in the Severn Estuary.


May 27, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

The Severn Barrage Is Still Off The Agenda

I have just seen this story and video on the BBC’s web site.

It shows the terrible state of the River Severn and the surrounding land.

One of my earliest memories is the aftermath of the East Coast Floods of 1953. Since then, every year or so the River Severn floods badly and despite barriers in other places like the rivers Thames, Tees and Hull, nothing of a similar scale has been done to alleviate the problems on the Severn.

I worked at Frederick Snow and Partners in the 1970s and was told of their design for a proposed Severn Barrage, that would help to cut flooding and also generate ten percent of our electricity.

Surely now is the time to build such a structure!

January 3, 2014 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Will We Get A Tidal Power Station At Swansea?

I ask the question after reading about the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon in the Sunday Times.

I like it, as it doesn’t have the problems of one of my favourite energy developments; the Severn Barrage.

It would appear to be fairly simple, have a sound economic case, the backing of the locals and doesn’t seem to annoy those that love birds more than energy.

It also has some other advantages.

If it works, it can serve as a prototype for other schemes around the UK and the world.

They don’t say whether the sea wall could be used to support wind turbines and whether the generators could be reversed to create some pumped storage facility, but on a quick perusal of the project, it could be an ideal platform on which to mount other zero carbon technologies.

December 22, 2013 Posted by | World | , , | 2 Comments

Carbon Capture And Storage

I went to the Geological Society yesterday to see a presentation by Paul Garnham of Shell about Carbon Capture and Storage and Shell’s project to implement it on Peterhead Power Station. The lecture is here on the Geological Society web site and a video will be uploaded in a few days.

I knew little about carbon capture and storage or CCS, a few weeks ago, but now after the excellent lecture and some reading, I know a little more. But only a very little!

So have I come to any conclusions?

I haven’t altered my major idea, that the first thing we must do is use a lot less energy and especially that produced by burning fossil fuels in one way or another.

But CCS seems to be one of those crazy ideas, thought up by politicians and oil companies, so they can say, they’re doing something to stop the rise in energy prices. My thoughts turn to King Canute on the beach trying to get the sea to obey him.

I may be proved wrong on CCS, but I object to funding crazy ideas like this, the importation of wood chip and the building of useless wind turbines, when we could do sensible things like insulate houses and other buildings, properly barrage the Severn Estuary, build several nuclear power plants and even use fracking in the short term, until nuclear comes on stream.,

We don’t have an energy policy in this country, but a scientifically incorrect policy to put the lights out.

At least then, with no electricity, we won’t be able to do anything that uses energy!

May 30, 2013 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Another Letter in The Times

I had another letter published in The Times yesterday about the Severn Barrage.

Sir, Paul Knight (letter, May 19) may well be right, if the Severn Barrier is built across the estuary, as is currently proposed. In the 1960s Sir Frederick Snow suggested that the river should be divided into a high and a low lake by a spine between containing the turbines and pumps, which would also have stored energy, by pumping water from the low to high lakes. I believe that this arrangement would be much more favourable to salmon and trout, as fish ladders and gates could be built at the upstream end.

My original letter is here.

I’m now coming to the conclusion, that the Severn Barrage, may well be the way to create a large amount of renewable energy. I doubt though, that it will ever be built, those who feel it shouldn’t be built have too many votes and will win through fear of the ballot box.

I think now, if the government were to propose a Channel Tunnel to connect England to France, it would not get built. Voters would have scrapped the Olympics too, if they’d have a chance.

May 23, 2012 Posted by | News | , , | 1 Comment

Peter Hain Resigns to Back Severn Barrage

Peter Hain has resigned from the Shadow Cabinet to back the Severn Barrage according to this report on the BBC.

I have always been in favour of the barrage ever since I worked for Frederick Snow and Partners in the early 1970. In fact, I had a letter published in The Times in 2008 on the subject, under the headline,  The Severn Barrage Needs Bolder Plans. It is reproduced here with some comments.

Time has moved on and we now have electrification of the train to Wales on the political and engineering agendas.  We also have an airport capacity crisis in London.

Electrification to Wales has one major problem; the Severn Tunnel. Building the barrage would solve that, albeit at quite a cost. In the meantime, I’m sure that some solution could be found like using the dreaded bi-mode  version of the IEP trains that everybody in the Rail Industry seems to hate. The barage would provide an effective bypass to allow electric trains all the way from London to West Wales.

Fredrick Snow’s original plans always envisaged a high and low lake, split by a central spine. This could work in either two modes.

  1. Energy generation, where water ran from the high to low lakes through reversible turbines, which can both gnerate power or pump water.
  2. Energy storage, where the turbines are reversed to pump water from the low to the high lake.

Th energy strorage technique is known as pumped storage and the biggest such station in the United Kingdom is Dinorwig.

Some reputable authorities reckon that pumped storage is an effective way to store excess electricity generated by wind power or large nuclear stations.

May 14, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Should We Ditch Huhne’s Wind Power Policy?

There is an article in The Times today from Dieter Helm, who is Professor of Energy Policy at Oxford University and a Fellow in Economics at New College at the same University.  So he should know what he is talking about. in fact, if you can get hold of a copy of today’s Times, the article on page 22 is a must-read!

He questions Chris Huhne’s energy policy of building lots of wind farms, especially as it will lead to higher energy bills against a background of falling gas prices. As gas is a fuel that creates less CO2 for the same amount of energy than coal, it would seem to me to be sensible, that whilst we wait for nuclear to come on stream, we use gas in the interim, as obvious low gas and electric prices will be a stimulus to the economy and our wind farms will do little to reduce the amount of world-wide CO2 emmissions, as China and India are commissioning a new coal-powered power station every week or so.

He finishes with a lovely quote.

Ministers who try to pick winners should remember that losers tend to pick governments.

He also indicates that energy and climate change policy needs substance, to make it a  workable one, that is believable to the man on the Dalston omnibus.

In my view that means scrapping expensive, inefficient and unsightly wind farm proposals, use more gas and build nuclear power stations for our long term needs. I am also a strong proponent of building a large tidal power station on the Severn, with an international airport on top.

It would also stimulate the country, if our electricity and gas bills were reduced.  The higher they get, the more likely it is that jobs needing a lot of energy will be exported to where energy is cheap, like India, China and the United States.  So we’ll get more global warming from their new coal-fired power stations.

February 6, 2012 Posted by | World | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Britain Goes Nuclear

With the delaying and possible demise of the Severn Barrage, it would appear that we are going to bet on nuclear for our energy for the next few decades.

I don’t particularly mind, as I believe that nuclear is totally safe and of course carbon-free if it is properly designed, built and managed. THe only question is will the opponents of nuclear power stop the stations being built.  Or if they don’t stop them from being built, will it be the decision that gets the coalition turned out at the next election? The public always feel that anything nuclear is dangerous.  That is why you have an MRI Scan at the hospital, rather than an NMRI one. The N refers to the nuclear resonance of the molecules in your body to the magnetic fields imposed on them.

I still think that the Severn Barrage will be built but it will be very different to any scheme so far proposed. Except possibly the one by Sir Frederick Snow.

It will of course have a high and a low lake split by a central spine, so that reversible turbines can either generate electricity as water flows downhill or store energy by pumping water from the low to the high lake.  The trick that makes wind energy viable is being able to store the excess and pumping water uphill is the easiest way to do it.

Whether the spine will have an airport is a more difficult question to answer.  I think it will, and as the need to airports decreases through this century, if the fast rail (Note not high-speed!) was there, then it could replace airports at Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham and to a certain extent, Heathrow.

As I reread my reflections on my trip to Scotland, then this could be an alternative south-western terminal of the West Coast Line. After all, the airport would be within two hours of most of London and Birmingham.

All this says is that we need to think boldly! In fact, we need to think very boldly!

We tend to base our planning on what we do today, not what we will be doing in thirty years time.

I’m just about to watch football on the television.  In 2040, will I be watching any match I want to in some form of immersion 3D system? And will I use the same technology to have business meetings with colleagues and clients?

October 18, 2010 Posted by | News, Transport | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Severn Barrage

It is being reported that the government is abandoning the building of the electricity-generating barrage of the River Severn between Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare.

Years ago, I did a job for Frederick Snow and Partners and at the time, they were proposing a bold barrage of the river to generate up to 10% if the UK’s energy needs. When the barrage was being discussed a couple of years ago, I had a letter published in The Times about the scheme.

Sir, The proposal shown in your paper today is timid. We have an energy crisis, an energy storage crisis, a landfill crisis and an airport crisis in this country and I believe that if we use the resource of the River Severn properly, we can help to solve all of them. A proper solution would also mitigate the problems of flooding in the Severn Valley.

I have knowledge of the proposals put forward by Frederick Snow in the 1960s. He felt that a central spine with a high and a low lake would be the best solution. Turbines would run between the lakes and could provide power when required, but they would also be capable of pumping water back to store energy. In these days of wind turbines relying on winds that don’t always blow, this would be a sensible way of storing the energy from wind power and releasing it as required.

Snow proposed putting energy-based industries such as chlorine and hydrogen production on the spine — but his major proposal was to site a very large airport on it. Could it with proper engineering be built on landfill? After all, it does face in the direction of the prevailing winds and it would be several kilometres from any centre of population, so noise pollution would be reduced to a minimum. As Brunel designed the Great Western to be virtually straight for high-speed running, trains à la TGV could do the journey to London in well under an hour. We either dither or we formulate a bold vision of which Brunel would have been proud.

I suspect that by cancelling we may only be delaying a scheme that will eventually go ahead.  As time passes Snow’s scheme for a central spine and airport will become more not less economical.

  1. The need to store energy from wind turbines and nuclear power stations will become more important.
  2. The high-speed railway to Bristol and Wales will have been electrified.  Also, a properly designed barrage will give another rail route to Wales from London.
  3. A higher percentage of the flights out of the UK, will go to the west. as those to the east will be more likely to be replaced by trains through the Channel Tunnel.  This will mean that an airport in the Bristol Channel will cut carbon emissions by a few percent, due to the shorter journey to the American continent.

October 17, 2010 Posted by | News, World | , , | 9 Comments