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

    Comment number 672.

    @653. Napoleon

    I think you will find that the idea for this stems from the Welsh Government, run by Labour. They want to borrow the money, and get it back via a toll... something that would need approval from the Treasury,

  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    Scrap road tax altogether and raise VAT on fuel by 0.5%. It would be impossible to avoid paying as you pay when you fill up with fuel, the more you drive the more you pay so incentive to : A, drive less, or B, drive a more economical vehicle. Save the whole department which issues car tax reminders and when a vehicle has an MOT test, the insurance certificate must be shown then MOT disc is issued

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    When we had the electronic cigarette bomb scare that closed the M6 Toll it only took 20 mins for the M6 to become a car park! The traffic using it may be not huge but it takes enough of the load to make the M6 function...just! People forget what it was like before it was constructed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    When plans for M4 Relief were dropped a few years back, part of the reasoning was that funding would have been via PFI, with tolls to pay off the debt.

    Ieuan Wyn Jones said they looked at the M6 Toll, and concluded that if a "free" option were available, people would always opt for that. The alternative would have been to put tolls on BOTH roads !

    So what's changed ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    #656 yes totally agree with you on the A303 missing link , add at least 2-3 hours in summer if you go surfing ,if you pick the wrong time of day.

    all of this should be coming out of the road tax at present , rather than trying to collect more. Let them sort out the benifit/imigration issues first b4 charge road users more money ,

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    In my experience of daily motorway driving, a lot of congestion is caused by truck drivers taking up 2 of the 3 motorway lanes as they slowly overtake each other. This causes a hugely inefficient use of available motorway capacity, as it forces the vast majority of motorway traffic to use one single lane. Simply ban trucks from all but the outside lane during busy periods to increase capacity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    @653 Napoleon:

    So if you had to chose just one word to describe the Chancellor what would it be?

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    When they need to replace the Spaghetti Junction (Annual maintenance bill = cost of construction!) Then the M6 Toll road will become invaluable to keep the nation running. Also the "Grey" belt land it has created will now create thousands of homes and businesses - progress of a sort??

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    659.newsman face
    "...I now still sometimes use the A34 rather than the M6 though Staffordshire."

    A very wise move indeed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    I agree the motorways in France are very good, but have you noticed the traffic including huge lorries avoiding the tolls as much as they can and ploughing through the small villages?
    It just shifts the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    Yes, okay we will have toll roads BUT in return we want guarantees.
    1. If there is a long delay on that road we don't get charged.
    2. The toll road must be at least three constant lanes, (non of this M25 nonsense where a slip road robs a lane off the three).
    3. The road surface is of a good standard, (if not - no charge).
    4. A fixed price for five years as per France.
    5. Charge agreed by AA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    '' I just aint gonna pay no toll ''

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    Hasn't anybody learned anything from the M6(T)? Ok, I used it when it first opened and it's a fantastic road but it's over priced and if you travel at the right times it just isn't worth paying the ever increasing toll. I would bet the same thing would happen on the M4. Build it yes... charge for it, no!

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    I use the M6 toll. I know it is expensive but it comes as a blessed relief after slogging down the M6. Years ago I often used the A5 rather than the M6 through Birmingham just to keep on the move. I now still sometimes use the A34 rather than the M6 though Staffordshire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    NO! to TOLLS on UK Roads! Road Tax pays for road repairs and then some. The argument of People paying for road because they choose to use them is OK, but it doesn't translate when you HAVE TO USE them every day to get to work so you can feed your family - then it turns out to be just another TAX ON DRIVERS. UKIP have a scrap the Tolls Campaign...Guess who's the Common Sense party nowadays..

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    Private healthcare.Public healthcare.Private schools.Public schools.Private roads.Public roads.Private south.Public north.

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    Before extending motorway provision where it already exists, it would be good to get a decent road into the West Country. The A303 is desperate for improvement and upgrade in Somerset and Devon, but nothing doing, so we still use what is almost a cart track for our major route to London. If the Welsh want more motorway let them pay for it themselves under the delegation powers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    As I do not use motorways I should care less about tolls but surely the reason for motorways was and still is to help industry to be competitive and move their merchandise as quickly as possible. If we need cash that badly why not introduce a fixed yearly toll as in Switzerland of £30 per annum to cover new build and maintenance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    I am already being battered for £6.20 a day to get up the M4 to work,now the only way I can avoid getting jammed up in the Brynglass tunnel fiasco is to pay another Toll.
    Ridiculous !
    It's no coincidence that there are a huge number of businesses nestled nicely on the English side of the bridge. This will add yet another nail in the Welsh Industry coffin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    Another rubbish idea from a rubbish chancellor. The most rubbish chancellor Britain has ever had. With his idiotic rubbish economic policy that the rest of the world says is rubbish. The man is complete rubbish. How many homeless people have you burnt £50 notes in front of lately George, that you and your rubbish mates like to do?


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