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Infrastructure pipeline uncertainty as M4 relief road scrapped

5 June 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Image: M4 motorway (Dreamstime/Leighton Collins)

Uncertainty around some of the UK’s biggest infrastructure projects is building, after the Welsh government announced yesterday that it was scrapping the £1.6bn M4 relief road.

The news came as chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee that the economics of several major projects and the productivity they bring, including the £56bn HS2 scheme, are still being looked at by government.

Any final decision on whether or not the project goes ahead or if other projects are prioritised instead rests with the future prime minister following the outcome of the Conservative party leadership election, she added.

Truss said: “At the moment I have an open mind because we are still looking at what are the economics of those different projects, and also what are the likely costs. The Treasury set an envelope for HS2 in 2015, I am expecting to receive revised information about the costings later on this summer, prior to the spending review.”

She added: “Historically, much of the investment appraisal has been about travel time. In the revised green book which we issued in 2018, we did say there needs to be more effort to assess productivity benefit.”

Meanwhile, Welsh government first minister Mark Drakeford said he was scrapping the M4 relief road scheme, which would have seen the construction of a 14-mile motorway in south Wales to tackle congestion around Newport, on the grounds of cost and impact on the environment.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) Wales director, Ed Evans, strongly criticised “political indecision” in relation to the move.

Evans said: “There has been much speculation within the industry for some time that the Welsh Government has been preparing the ground to cancel their plans for an M4 relief road around Newport.

“It is now clear that Wales will lose out again. This has been a dreadfully slow process riddled with political indecision. And yet the problems for businesses and communities in this part of Wales remain as do, sadly, the environmental impacts caused by congestion and tailbacks at the tunnels.

“The civil engineering sector looks forward to hearing details as a matter of urgency of how the Welsh Government now intends to use its borrowing powers to invest in Wales’ infrastructure with alternative schemes.”

Comments

Again the lack of vision in our decision makers is manifest.
A simple decision to drive 3 or even 4 lane tunnels through the Brynglas Tunnels north of Newport at conception would now be reaping enormous benefits. Why are these locked in factors in any scheme not discounted over 100 years in our thinking? God save the industry from the desk bound!

Roger Blackmore- Squires, 7 June 2019

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