Wales politics

Welsh Conservatives' M4 relief road election pledge

M4 in Newport
Image caption The Welsh government has backed a six-lane motorway to run south of Newport

The Welsh Conservatives will have "diggers in the ground" to build a planned M4 relief road within 12 months of coming to power if successful in the assembly elections, the party has said.

They have yet to publicly back a specific route but said they would hold a review of all options.

Leader Andrew RT Davies accused Labour of dithering on the M4 plans.

A spokesman for the first minister said the Welsh government was keen for the M4 to progress as soon as possible.

It supports a new six lane motorway to run south of Newport, which is thought to cost around £1bn.

But the preferred black route plans have been controversial and others have suggested that a so-called blue route, extending existing roads, would be cheaper.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has argued the black route may cost "nowhere near" £1bn.

But Mr Davies said: "A public review will give equal consideration to all the options, delivering a route that provides value for money and equips the Welsh economy for future growth.

"But we cannot allow Labour's dithering to kick this into the long grass."

He added a "Welsh Conservative government would expedite the route review and have diggers in the ground within twelve months".

Mr Davies has previously said he would consider supporting a new motorway if the cost was reduced.

Keith Jones, director of the Institution of Civil Engineers Wales Cymru and a supporter of the black route, said: "Work could indeed start within a year of the new Welsh government.

"It would be a very challenging programme with full design being carried out in parallel with the statutory procedures, but it is welcoming to see agreement for a speedy resolution."

However, a Welsh government website for the M4 plans suggests a potential timeline of Spring 2018 for the start of construction, with a public inquiry taking place in the winter of 2016/2017.

'Hypocritical'

The plans to ease M4 congestion have divided opinion within the assembly's ruling Labour group - with one Labour AM sacked as a committee chair after criticising spending on the road.

A spokesman for the first minister said: "This is completely hypocritical of the Tories - their own front bench is divided on this issue, just as they are completely split on Europe.

"This is a massive infrastructure project and, of course, that will attract debate and controversy.

"But to claim that the Welsh government is an impediment to the progress is complete nonsense.

"As one of the most ambitious projects this government has sought to deliver, we are keen for it to progress as soon as possible so the people, businesses and economy of Wales can start feeling the benefits."

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