South East Wales

M4 Brynglas tunnel fire: more rush hour delays to come

Motorists are warned to expect rush hour delays on the M4 in south Wales as a tunnel remains closed after a lorry fire.

Transport Minister Carl Sargeant warned that part of the motorway could be shut for days following the blaze in the westbound Brynglas tunnel at Newport.

Both carriageways were closed for several hours between J24 (Coldra) and J28 (Tredegar Park) on Tuesday.

A contraflow system in the eastbound tunnel offered one lane both ways.

Fire crews spent most of the day battling the flames after the incident at 08:30 BST on Tuesday.

Structural engineers then entered the tunnel to assess any damage caused to the infrastructure.

Image caption The westbound Brynglas tunnel is likely to remain closed for several days

Steve Price, group manager at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The westbound side of the tunnel will remain closed until further notice due to damage caused by the fire to the overhead gantry and because the lorry and its cargo still remain within the tunnel."

The service said no other vehicles were involved in the fire.

The lorry driver got out safely and there were no injuries, a spokesman added.

By 21:00 BST on Tuesday traffic was said to be flowing smoothly through the contraflow in the re-opened eastbound Brynglas tunnel.

But a Welsh Government spokesman warned that with just one lane of traffic open in each direction, delays could be expected in peak hours for days.

"Traffic congestion is now obviously a major concern and we would urge any motorists planning on using the M4 in south east Wales to make alternative arrangements," he said.

Dark clouds

Fire crews arriving at the scene faced large volumes of black smoke coming from the western side of the tunnel.

Image caption Traffic was halted as smoke billowed from the Brynglas tunnels at Newport

Incident commander Adrian Moyes said: "One lorry was well alight on arrival and crews were immediately employed to ensure no persons remained within this or any other vehicle within the tunnel.

"They then proceeded to tackle the blaze and are bringing the incident under control."

At a nearby hotel, eyewitnesses reported seeing dark clouds billowing from the tunnel just after 09:00 BST.

"There was a lot of black smoke," said Lowri Morgan, receptionist at the Etap hotel, which is situated on the west side of the tunnels alongside the eastbound carriageway.

"I didn't know anything had happened until a guest mentioned it to me.

"I went up to the top of the hotel and all you could see was the thick black smoke. It was rising above the level of the lampposts.

Road chaos

Lengthy traffic tailbacks developed on the M4 and adjacent routes in the area.

Among those caught in the queues was Agriculture Minister Alun Davies, who tweeted: "Gridlock on the M4 at Newport. Haven't moved for 45 mins."

Another, Buddug Cole, was travelling with her husband and two children, from Cardiff to Heathrow Airport to catch a holiday flight to Seattle, USA, when they were caught in the disruption.

"We travelled two miles in about two hours," she said. "We know we are not flying today basically, even if we had a free run from here."

Another motorist said she had taken 1hr 45min to travel from J23 at Magor to J24 at the Coldra.

The motorway was also temporarily closed in February when a car caught fire in the westbound tunnel.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites