In November 2019, a Beaufort Research poll conducted on behalf of Wales Online, revealed that twice as many voters in Wales support an M4 Relief Road than those who oppose it, writes Michael Enea.
In fact, in the South Wales Valleys, support for the Relief Road was as high as 59%; Even in Cardiff and South-East Wales, support for the much-needed relief road resided at 55%.
Today, we estimate that support for the M4 Relief Road – in Newport itself – may be as high as 70%. Yet all the polling and data directly contradicts the views of our First Minister – Mark Drakeford.
I have often received feedback on the environmental concerns of the M4 Relief Road – and rightly so. It’s a serious issue that warrants the attention of every possible policymaker. However, on social media, I’ll often read the occasional misinformed comment on how the M4 Relief Road will be built through the middle of Newport Wetlands Centre. A somewhat interesting interpretation of the plans, as this isn’t quite true.
Yes, the designated Black Route would clip the northern edge of the Gwent Lowlands, running just below the Leeway Industrial Estate near Spytty – But it would not demolish nor cut directly through the middle of the Newport Wetlands Centre.
The 2019 Inspector’s report – written by Bill Wadrup – also picked up on this point. Unsurprisingly it was quick to point out that the Relief Road only impacted two per cent of the geographical land coverage within the overall Gwent Lowlands area.
That same report also overwhelmingly supported the requirement for an M4 Relief Road. The report stated that the Relief Road was a good use of public funds, that environmental obligations were overstated and that it was in the public interests.
To be blunt, the economic benefits of investing in the Relief Road are huge.
Following Welsh Labour’s opposition to investment in the M4, we now have a Commission that has been put in place to establish credible ‘alternatives’ to the Relief Road. This is despite the 2019 Inspector’s Report explaining in detail why there were no other suitable alternatives capable of significantly improving the M4 around Newport.
It would be remiss of me to say that all of the alternative recommendations presented in the Commissioner’s Final Report are rubbish. I want to see more railway stations; we need to improve bus networks; and we need to introduce bicycle corridors. But these are things that were already largely planned to run parallel to the M4 Relief Road.
These are not alternatives – They’re unfinished projects.
However, some of the recommendations in the Commission’s Final Report present deeply alarming long term proposals. Businesses and residents don’t want to see the introduction of motorway tolls; congestion charges; a ‘Workplace Parking Levy’.
These recommendations are no different to a tax on the hard-working voters of Newport.
Some might call this scaremongering. I call it the reality of Welsh-Labour governance.
Take a look at Labour-controlled Greater Manchester. Mayor Andy Burnham has presented proposals that would effectively introduce a city-wide congestion charge. Non-compliant buses and lorries would have to pay £60 a day; Vans would be paying £10 a day; and hardworking taxi drivers would have to fork out £7.50 a day – All to drive within Manchester’s designated Clean Air Zone.
The impact this would have on the Welsh economy would be catastrophic – can you imagine a similar congestion charge, here in South Wales? This is the direction Mark Drakeford is taking us – We need to put a stop to it now.
But the biggest problem with all the ‘alternatives’ to the M4 Relief Road is that the numbers simply don’t stack up. In 2019, we saw a staggering 20.27 million vehicles travel along the M4, in and around Newport.
If you took 10% of these vehicles off the road by improving public transport, that would equate to over 2 million motorists, passengers and commuters. However, the question is: would an improved public transport system cope with an extra 2 million passengers? Possibly, but it would certainly be a struggle.
However, the problem remains – You’re still left with over 18 million vehicles travelling through Newport on the M4 motorway. The queues of traffic will remain.
After the end of the first lockdown, we saw first hand how fast traffic volumes can reappear. It’s fundamentally clear that this problem isn’t going away. We’ve gone way past the tipping point.
I strongly suspect that some within Welsh Labour are aware of these numbers. Deep down, they know full well what the cold, hard, reality is.
Sadly I fear the Labour-led Cardiff Bay cartel won’t listen to our calls for a referendum on the issue. We are merely seeing empty words from Julie James MS and our First Minister, Mark Drakeford.
The reality is Welsh Labour won’t deliver a referendum. They won’t deliver an M4 Relief Road either.
The only way to deliver for the people of Newport is to vote for the Welsh Conservatives on May 6th.
Should the Welsh Conservatives take control of the Senedd, we will deliver an M4 Relief Road for Newport.
No broken promises.
We will deliver an M4 Relief Road for Newport.
Michael Enea is the Welsh Conservative Senedd Candidate for Newport West.