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 812.

    Don't we get the chance to tell the Chancellor he is an idiot over benefit cuts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    If the success of the Millennium stadium in Cardiff in terms of costs and revenue can be replicated in this proposed M4 Relief road, then it will be a viable project. Otherwise the government may be better advised to wait to see how the economy improves before allowing the Welsh govt to commit itself to more borrowings. Will private investors contribute? [News Bits Weekly] Twitter @ Patkehinde

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    "and its cash only no reciept (sic)"
    The Severn Bridges definitely give receipts. They do also accept cheques and the Severn Tag, although cards still seem a bridge too far :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    803 lufat

    You have hit the nail on the head. And with fuel saved, there is no real cost anyway!

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    742 @ MrsSqueaky

    Its all good saying 'Why can't we just have more roads that everyone has access to without having to pay a toll' but the taxpayer will end up paying more in road tax. I've listened to both sides of the argument and agree that toll roads are counterproductive as people don't want to pay and doesnt generate the revenue the govt invested!! They should consider Sovereign Wealth funds

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    The M6 Toll has been an unmitigated disaster from a cost point of view. A very small minority who are prepared to pay use it, most do not.
    Clearly at some point someone has made money, presumably underwritten by the Government, and the debt sold on like all the PFI schemes. that are bankrupting the NHS.
    Why Cameron and his cronies think that this is different beggars belief.
    A14 Toll here we come!

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    I disagree that journeys between neighbouring towns are "local", even though Newport, Cwmbran & Cardiff are within 20 miles of each other. Most of these trips are not centre-to-centre, which is what intercity public transport provides.
    The M4 is the natural link route since there are no alternative direct roads. - the alternative to a motorway relief road would be building more dual-carriageways!

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    Heh. *Seven* consecutive posts on the bounce, all modded for supposedly being "off topic"...? I've always stuck up for the BBC in the face of "bias" claims from both sides of the political divide, but I'm sorry, this moderation is an utter travesty.

    Perhaps I should join in with the "Gideon is an idiot!!1" type stuff; I'd have more chance of being heard.

    What a joke.

  • Comment number 804.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    When the M6 toll opened being a tight Yorkshireman I avoided it. But having tried it once I'm converted. Life is too short to spend it sitting in a queue in Birmingham.

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    This guy is a deluded idiot

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    If Mr Hemingway was alive today he would have written For Whom the Toll Tolls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    I wonder which Tory Party Donors will get the contracts to build and run the Toll Road?

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    Sneaky government maneuverings at play here, the old Road Fund Tax changes to an emissions based vehicle excise duty in a bid to make it acceptable to spend the money on something other than on roads.
    They want to be seen to be saving the planet through extra taxation but they still want ever more toll income from an increased number of vehicles.

    Just build it out of the good old Road Fund Tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    BBC news - "Drivers would not be charged a toll to drive on a proposed M4 relief road in south Wales, the Welsh government has said."
    Somebody had better tell Gideon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    There must be a profit for someone when the word Toll is used.
    We used to build and repair our road network using Tax Revenue.
    What happens when local government gets the go ahead to sell the street you live in?

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    Just make one lane a Bus Lane , oh 2 Jags did that, what a waste of peoples important time.
    Actually BBC why don't you just stop HYS because all your topics are so feeble and you moderate heavily in favour of the left and minorities and hide your HYS under several tabs to obviously to reduce moderation time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    just thinking that the M25 is a toll road if you have to use the dartford crossing and going into Wales,
    and its cash only no reciept, hmm they find a way to tax you.
    the charges change all the time, that is in my Hi-Lux I get charged for being a car and then a van.
    last time going into Wales I was told I was a commercial vehicle.
    I was taking a PhD student to a site for her to research !?!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    Well how else are worthy 1% supposed to get about?

    Cram the plebs together so they don't get in the way of ones lovely new Maserati.

  • Comment number 793.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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