Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
This Written Statement provides an update on the status of the M4 Corridor around Newport Project.
I announced in October the need to review traffic modelling in light of new information, including revised traffic growth data published by the Department for Transport in July. The DfT have since announced their data will shortly again be revised. In anticipation of this my officials have collaborated with DfT to ensure that the data informing my review is reflective of the forthcoming further revision and my review makes use of the best and most accurate information.
I am also very mindful of the duties of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act to think long-term and preventatively. In combination with my review of associated economic and environmental assessments, I have also taken this opportunity to take a fresh look at whether our latest proposals for Metro, or the much discussed ‘Blue Route’, could address the problems.
Latest assessments indicate that future traffic levels, taking into account our latest Metro proposals, will continue to grow but slightly slower than previously thought. Whilst this is of course welcomed, the M4 around Newport would still be well over capacity, with severe and worsening problems. Widening existing local roads through Newport, as some have suggested as a ‘blue route’, would give little relief and fail to take a long-term approach to future proofing our transport network.
My review concludes that the proposed M4 Project remains to be considered the long-term, sustainable solution to the long-standing, and worsening, problems associated with one of the key gateways to Wales. The Project would significantly re-structure the highway network around Newport and, integrated with Metro, deliver our vision for an efficient, integrated transport network for Wales.
In the spirit of openness and transparency, full technical, economic and environmental reporting that has informed my review is published on the Welsh Government website, allowing everyone to consider it.
I can now confirm that the Project shall proceed to be considered by Independent Inspectors at an Inquiry determined by the Planning Inspectorate to commence on 28 February 2017, with a pre-inquiry meeting held on 27 January.
I remain well aware of the range of views towards this Project. An Inquiry will allow these views to be heard and taken into account. Outside of that process I am continuing to explore all opportunities for maximising cross-cutting benefits of this major potential investment for Wales.
On receipt of the Inspectors’ report I expect to be in a position to make a final decision on whether to proceed with construction by the end of next year. Works could commence in 2018 and the new section of motorway open in 2021.