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Parliamentary debate 14/11/18: Upgrading of the M4 in South Wales

Published Thursday, November 8, 2018

This debate will take place between 2.30 and 4.00 pm on 14 November in Westminster Hall. The Member who secured the debate is Stephen Crabb MP (Con., Preseli Pembrokeshire).

MPs can find Parliamentary questions, statements and debates on the M4 via this link.

Overview

The Welsh Government is planning to build a new section of motorway in the M4 corridor south of Newport alongside complementary measures. The public inquiry into the scheme closed in March 2018; a final report has yet to be issued. The Works are planned to start at the end of 2018, to be complete by the end of 2023. estimated cost is approximately £1.3 billion. All relevant documentation associated with the scheme is available on the Welsh Government website.

Financing

This is a devolved project, however there is some dispute between the Welsh Government and the UK Government about funding for the scheme. In Budget 2018 the Chancellor announced that the Government would “support the delivery of a new M4 relief road through a review of the Welsh Government’s capital borrowing powers at the Spending Review, to consider whether the borrowing cap should be increased by up to £300 million to support this vital project”.

Further to this, there were reports that Wales Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford, had taken issue with this. The BBC reported:

The Welsh Government can already borrow £1bn, but opponents of the relief road are concerned that committing to the project will tie-up most of that cash for years.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio's Good Morning Wales programme that he was told months ago that the borrowing powers would be reviewed.

"It will be for the national assembly for Wales to decide on how borrowing powers are deployed, not for the Chancellor in England, not for the Secretary for State for Wales," he said. "If our borrowing ability goes up, which it should go up, it should be for the national assembly to make those decisions."

But [Welsh Secretary, Alun] Cairns said: "Last April, the Welsh Government asked the Treasury for additional funding for the M4 road, for additional borrowing capacity. I've been able to deliver that extra borrowing power so there is no financial reason why that road [can not be] built. I'd also point out that it is a Labour manifesto commitment," adding: "This is not about us dictating policy. If they choose not to build it, then that is their political choice and they need to explain that to the people around Newport as well as to the businesses across the whole of the South Wales corridor because they will suffer as a result."

[…] A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We requested the UK Government reviews the Welsh Government's borrowing cap, in line with the fiscal framework agreement, for it to be raised at the next spending review. This request was made to help us fund our ambitious capital infrastructure programme, which potentially includes an M4 relief road, subject to the outcome of the public inquiry."

[…] The Welsh Government recently received the findings of a public inquiry into whether to build the M4 Relief Road, which estimated to cost more than £1.4bn.

A decision is yet to be taken on whether to go ahead, with a vote set to take place in the assembly in December.

Ministers in Cardiff have supported the relief road in the past but Mr Drakeford, who is a candidate in the Welsh Labour leadership race, is thought to be a sceptic.

Plaid Cymru treasury spokesman Jonathan Edwards said: "It would completely undermine devolution if those borrowing powers are only constrained by what the British government wants the Welsh government to spend those borrowing powers on."

History

[via the Welsh Government’s Statement of Case]

  • In the mid-1970s the M4 accounted for a contract expenditure of about £1m per week with a labour force of 4,000. During eight months of 1977 a total of 31 miles of the M4 were completed at a value of £130m.
  • Since the early 1990s, much assessment and consultation has been undertaken to develop a preferred solution to the transport-related problems associated with the M4 around Newport.
  • Following consultation in 1993 and 1994, a Preferred Route for an M4 Relief Road was announced by the then Secretary of State for Wales, on 12 July 1995. A TR111 Notice was also published on the same day, which protected a corridor for planning purposes. A revised TR111 Notice was published in 1997 to take into account local developments of importance.
  • Between 1997 and 2006, studies were undertaken to consider other options such as public transport improvements, and a comprehensive route review led to a further revised TR111 Notice being published in 2006.
  • In 2009 the Scheme following the Preferred Route was pronounced to be unaffordable by the then Deputy First Minister. Instead, the M4 Corridor Enhancement Measures (CEM) programme was set up to explore and resolve issues of capacity, safety and resilience along the M4 corridor in south east Wales.
  • Further appraisal was undertaken of options that included M4 CEM options, motorway options, and complementary measures. The appraisal concluded that a new section of dual 3-lane motorway to the south of Newport, in addition to complementary measures, should be progressed.
  • These options subsequently formed the basis for the development of a draft Plan and Strategic Environmental Assessment, which was subject to public consultation between September and December 2013.
  • Taking responses to the consultation and its associated assessments into account, the Welsh Government decided to adopt its Plan for the M4 Corridor around Newport in July 2014. A revised TR111 Notice was published.
  • Costain-Vinci and Taylor Woodrow Joint Venture were appointed in March 2015 under an ‘Early Contractor Involvement’ (ECI) Contract to develop the Scheme. Engineering design and environmental support is provided by Arup-Atkins Joint Venture and RPS respectively.
  • In March 2016 the draft Orders for the Scheme were published, alongside an Environmental Statement, Statement to Inform an Appropriate Assessment, and associated reporting. Since then and taking into account submissions to the draft Orders, work has been carried out preparing modifications and supplementary environmental information.
  • A public inquiry began in February 2017 and concluded in April 2018

Commons Debate packs CDP-2018-0246

Author: Louise Butcher

Topics: National Assembly for Wales, Roads

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