South East Wales

M4 motorway's Brynglas Tunnels is 'foot on windpipe of Welsh economy'

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

David Cameron described the Brynglas Tunnels as a "foot on the windpipe of the Welsh economy" an inquiry into the proposed M4 relief road has been told.

The former prime minister was quoted as Welsh business leaders began the supporters' case at the inquiry into the £1.1bn road around Newport.

"He said it in 2013 and Mr Cameron just about sums it up," CBI Wales vice chairman Chris Sutton said.

The CBI added a new M4 route would "return £2-3bn to the Welsh economy".

The business organisation said the M4 "generates the wealth for Wales" and "regular bottlenecks" on the current stretch through the Brynglas Tunnels at Newport, which the inquiry heard can "crawl at 20mph", is having a detrimental effect.

Image copyright AFP

The Welsh Government wants to build a 14-mile six-lane motorway between the current M4 junction 23A at Magor to junction 29 near Castleton.

The CBI argues "frequent traffic problems" are not just "putting off businesses moving to Wales" but making it difficult "retaining businesses".

"Basically the problem is goods struggle to get in and out of Wales because of the congestion," Mr Sutton said.

A road to the south of Newport was first proposed in 1991 and Mr Sutton said the delays mean that plan is "Wales' equivalent of the expansion of Heathrow", adding: "We can't do nothing, Wales needs to have the ambition to deliver key projects."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionChris Sutton, CBI Wales vice chairman, believes the black route is the best option

"The M4 serves two thirds of the Welsh population and over two thirds of Welsh gross domestic product," he said.

"It is the most important infrastructure project in Wales and of fundamental importance to the whole Welsh economy as higher GDP in south Wales will lead to greater government revenue, which can be spent across the whole of Wales."

CBI figures show 81% of its members in Wales said improving infrastructure was their top priority, with 76% saying a new M4 south of Newport was "critical".

The inquiry has already heard Wales' busiest stretch of road is reaching capacity, carrying up to 117,000 cars a day, and CBI figures predict a 30% increase in traffic by 2025.

Image copyright BBC/Google

CBI Wales chairman Michael Plaut said a relief road was "crucial", especially following the UK's decision to leave European Union

"Post Brexit Wales is going to need all the help it can get," he told the inquiry.

"People do not like sitting in traffic jams as it costs time and money.

"Businesses will just go elsewhere in the world simply because of congestion on the M4."

CBI evidence presented to the inquiry concluded: "Building is only a costly proposal if you assume doing nothing will cost us nothing, sadly this is not the case.

"High quality infrastructure is a critical component in economic development and considers this route the only viable, sustainable and long term solution to help the Welsh economy grow and prosper."

More on this story