Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Minister Decides to Scrap M4 Road Scheme and Draws the Wrath of Freight and Road Haulage Lobby

Shortage of Cash Causes Abandonment in What Transport Sector Sees as Short Sighted Decision
Shipping News Feature
UK – In a controversial move today the First Minister of Wales announced that the much vaunted M4 relief road scheme was to be scrapped. In his decision letter Mark Drakeford said 'uncertainty as to the financial position of the Welsh Government, the cost of the Project, and its consequential impact on other capital investment priorities, was not acceptable' and therefore the Welsh Government would not supply the necessary funding. The decision was immediately met by a chorus of disapproval from the road haulage and general freight lobby.

The First Minister’s decision can now only be overturned by a judicial review, something proponents of the scheme will doubtless be considering, particularly in light of the Minister’s comments in the letter that his Cabinet did not call into doubt that ‘the Inspector’s conclusion that the Project would constitute at least sound value for money, and in all probability good value for money’.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) commented that the decision will cost the Welsh economy hundreds of millions of pounds in lost investment according to the Welsh Government’s own assessment, claiming it would have delivered £2 for every £1 invested. Sally Gilson, Head of Welsh Policy at FTA, commented:

“As the organisation representing the UK’s logistics sector, FTA is urging the First Minister to reconsider his decision; the construction of a ‘Black Route’ is the only option for the Welsh economy and its citizens. The M4 is a vital stretch of infrastructure with international economic importance, yet it is blighted by heavy congestion. FTA’s members have consistently evidenced the urgent need to tackle these congestion issues.

”It is frustrating that the opportunity to deliver this essential investment into South Wales’ infrastructure has been missed. By improving the air quality around the Brynglas tunnels and tackling the road congestion through Newport, it would have also benefited local citizens.”

The comments of Ms Gilson were echoed by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) which said, if followed through, the scheme would have relieved congestion and signalled Wales as open for business, as opposed to dashing the hopes of firms expecting improvements to a creaking road network after years of promises. RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett, added:

“Firms frustrated with crippling congestion on the M4 will feel they’ve been let down by the Welsh Government. South Wales needs high-capacity, high-quality road infrastructure to keep people and goods moving efficiently. But scrapping the relief road without a clear alternative to reduce congestion will only make Wales less attractive to investors.”