M4 relief road: Chancellor 'to approve toll plan'

 
M4 traffic near the Brynglas tunnels Plans for an M4 relief road were first announced in 2004

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Plans to build an M4 relief road in south Wales are being backed by the Treasury, the BBC has been told.

It follows press reports that Chancellor George Osborne will announce plans to support a new toll motorway in June's comprehensive spending review.

However, the Welsh government said it does not plan to impose tolls on Welsh roads and called the idea "unworkable".

A Westminster source said agreement in principle had been reached but a deal on funding was not finalised.

The Welsh government dropped plans for an M4 relief road around Newport in 2009 after the cost rose to £1bn.

Talks have been continuing between the UK and Welsh governments about ways to fund improvements to the M4 in south Wales, which business leaders say are vital for the economy.

Start Quote

It's worth pointing out though that the M6 Toll in the Midlands... hasn't ever made any money. People won't pay it”

End Quote Mickey Clarke Financial journalist

Reports in The Times and Independent say that funding for a relief motorway will be guaranteed by the Treasury to allow the Welsh government to build the road and then to repay the loan at least in part by raising tolls.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Any decisions on future schemes would be taken following the spending review.

"Tolling the M4 in Wales would be a matter for the Welsh Assembly."

A Welsh government source said: "A toll road idea has not formed any part of the inter-governmental talks that have taken place between the Welsh and UK governments.

"The tolling of Welsh roads is entirely a matter for the Welsh government and we have no plans to introduce tolls on any Welsh road.

"It's an unworkable idea and given the Scots are not being forced to put tolls on their new Forth Bridge, it would be unfair for Wales to be expected to re-coup the money in this way, to fund road improvements here.

"Wales is not a second-class Scotland.

"As part of the ongoing inter-governmental talks, the future of toll income from the Severn Crossings after the current concession ends, is also being discussed."

The Welsh government said it was "following due process" on the issue of easing the congestion on the M4 around Newport, and that it was continuing to press the UK government for access to borrowing powers in order to finance infrastructure investment.

The UK's only toll motorway is the 27-mile (43km) M6 Toll north of Birmingham which opened in 2003.

Employers' group the CBI has called a relief road to ease congestion on the M4 near Newport a "clear priority".

Welsh affairs editor Vaughan Roderick says some form of borrowing may be needed to fund the project

Business leaders say traffic jams, particularly after crashes which close the motorway, are bad for the economy of south Wales.

Plans were announced in 2004 for a 14-mile road to ease congestion on the M4 around Newport, between junctions 23 and 29.

The scheme was estimated to cost at least £350m and was due to open in 2013, with the possibility that it would be partly financed by tolls.

When the scheme was scrapped in 2009, its likely cost had risen to £1bn.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, then deputy first minister and transport minister, said at the time that putting tolls on the "unaffordable" proposed new road would have reduced its economic effectiveness.

Financial journalist Mickey Clarke told BBC Radio Wales: "It's worth pointing out though that the M6 Toll in the Midlands... hasn't ever made any money. People won't pay it. That's the trouble."

Start Quote

These works have been in the pipeline for many years and should be completed before we look again at a very expensive toll road”

End Quote Jonathan Edwards MP Plaid Cymru

Nick Payne, regional director of the Road Haulage Association, welcomed the idea of the proposed new motorway going ahead but was against the prospect of tolls.

He said: "The M6 Toll road hasn't been massively successful as far as the transport industry is concerned. I don't know whether or not the haulage industry in Wales can afford to be paying yet another toll after paying so much money to get across the [Severn] bridge every day."

Matt Hemsley, spokesman for the transport charity Sustrans Cymru, criticised the M4 relief road as "poor value for money", saying investment in public transport would do more to ease congestion.

"The Welsh government acknowledges that 40% of journeys on this stretch of the M4 are local trips of under 20 miles," he said.

'Save billions'

"By making it easier for people to walk, cycle and catch public transport we can ease congestion, improve our health and save the economy billions."

Environmental campaigners have renewed their opposition to an M4 relief road amid fears of damage to the Gwent Levels Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Tom Clarke, chief executive officer of the Gwent Wildlife Trust, said: "This would mean years of construction and pollution for the residents of Magor, Newport and Cardiff, and destruction of the nationally important Gwent Levels - and then asking them to pay for the privilege."

In February 2012 the Welsh government announced plans to turn an old access road through Llanwern steelworks into a £13m dual carriageway to link south Newport with the M4, claiming it would help relieve congestion.

Plaid Cymru economy and transport spokesperson Jonathan Edwards said he was sceptical about the proposals.

He said: "People want to lessen the impact of the tolls on those coming into south Wales, not increase it.

"These works have been in the pipeline for many years and should be completed before we look again at a very expensive toll road."

 

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  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 332.

    A piece of nonsense. £1Billion for 14 miles of road. Someone at Whitehall needs to get a grip on all these runaway costs. Too many consultants and owners of contract companies creaming off massive profits. Probably end up going to a London consultancy who will bring in a German construction company who will employ Polish labourers.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 331.

    Any toll road really is only a way of keeping traffic off it so those who can afford it have "a nice day".
    Therefore NO toll roads should be paid for by the tax payer.

    The conjestion charge (get out of London so the rich can drive unhindered charge) does not benefit ordinary motorists much.

    I never drive into London anymore and train fares are a disgrace due to privatisation.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 330.

    Sounds like a good idea.

    The M6 Toll road is great.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 329.

    Are the builders going to be British paying proper tax in the UK are the workers going to British or are they going to be foreign cheap labour

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 328.

    Let's add a toll to the M4 between Reading and Chiswick and to the M3 from Bracknell to Feltham. Even a rush-hour only toll would raise enough money to pay for the national road network required and spread some of the SE wealth to other parts of the country. Make it automatic by overhead scanning - which works well in other countries. No need for tolls in less well off areas.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 327.

    In Spain most of our motorway roads are tolled. Every year I go home for Christmas and visit my family I spend 12-14 EUR getting from the airport back to my house. And same again to go back. However, the driving is great, there never is queues, and the road surface is much better than in England. Yes they are expensive but just another cost of living to us.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 326.

    @317
    The opportunities in this country are, and remain, vastly better than just about anywhere else in the world - fact. The vast majority of new jobs created in the economy by Labour had to be filled by immigrants, why do you suppose that was?

    Years ago, there was pride in work, however menial. Pity that ethos has gone. How many people "on the sick" do we have now, compared to '60s/'70s?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 325.

    Roads for the rich. I challenge anyone to drive or ride the M6 toll and stick to seventy. You will find everything overtakes you! Also the one services on the M6 toll, stop there and look at the car park. All Jags Mercs and 4x4s with lots of personalized number plates. I felt the public were looking down their noses at me but I have never felt that at other services.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 324.

    When the government gets in the toll road business, they lose any incentive to improve existing roads, and every incentive to making them run as inefficient as possible.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 323.

    @318. Psycho-Si
    "spend £5.50 to save £10 on fuel and half an hour of time. If that isn''t sense, then i will remain thick, but in profit. Pretty simple maths really."

    True but you miss the point, we pay through one means or another an arm and a leg to use the roads already, it is wrong to charge road users yet again

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 322.

    292

    G. Brown, for whatever reason, felt he had no choice.

    He was cornered because of both Thatchers, and his own, subservience to the banks.

    They both messed up.

    My distaste for this is that it isn't the first time in our history that it's happened.

    Tories have always socially engineered.

    They wouldn't survive otherwise.



    Labour didn't exist when turnpikes were born.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 321.

    @Psyco-Si What car are you driving? According to a quick look, J4 to J11A is some 20 miles, while the M6 toll is... 27 miles. Admittedly, traffic is a concern but to make me pay £5.50 a day to travel approximately the same distance is probably better spent on a more efficient car (and certainly won't be £10 the other way, which would give me 80+ miles of ordinary driving on a 15-year-old car).

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 320.

    12. rkj52

    I think its traffic management through the use of variable speed limits and ability to use the hard shoulder sometimes thats eased congestion on the M6 through Birmingham and the Black Country rather than the M6 Toll. The toll road is still virtually empty most of the time because its too expensive for most people to use regularly.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 319.

    "299.
    Lord_Raiden
    I guess the trouble is, with so many work-averse people,"

    Oh give it a rest! Stop regurgitating IDS/Diley Mile lies. There is more than enough evidence that there are nothing like enough jobs for the current excessive population in the UK. Don't you read the news, etc? The huge majority of people are far from work-averse. There really are NO JOBS. All flogged off overseas.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 318.

    308, Stereotronic, spend £5.50 to save £10 on fuel and half an hour of time. If that isn''t sense, then i will remain thick, but in profit. Pretty simple maths really.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 317.

    299. Lord_Raiden
    I guess the trouble is, with so many work-averse people
    ==
    Even the Governments own (optimistic) figures show 5 unemployed to every job vacancy.

    Your view of your fellow citizens is despicable and completely unjustified.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 316.

    I don't know the exact figures or stats so sorry if Im wrong - Hasn't recent figures shown that out of ALL the road tax that is paid, only 1/4 of that money is pumped back into the roads (which are in shocking condition).
    Now I know where the rest of the money is being spent.

    Pay road tax, see very little in return, then build a Toll road and charge people an arm and a leg. Good one!!!!!

  • rate this
    +38

    Comment number 315.

    I never use the Toll Road. I have to calculate the time I have to wait to pay and then I am forced to use the M42 to join the M5. I could use the M6 but that takes me through Birmingham.
    Using the M6/M5 may take more time during peak hours but otherwise it is usually quite smooth. I build in the extra travelling time and save myself £11 a day, that is £55 a week, roughly £2,700 a year.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 314.

    Another example of Osborne demonstrating how out of touch he is. This will be as big a waste of time as the M6 Toll which did nothing to relieve congestion for those of us in the Midlands.

    We pay some of the highest motoring taxes in the world. If a relief road needs building it needs to be free to use otherwise it won't work.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 313.

    More money for the south. No one matters north of Watford

 

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