Dear First Minister

In response to the story on WalesOnline re: ”That decision is over’: Mark Drakeford says £1.3bn M4 relief road will not be happening’, I feel I need to air the frustrations of many who have spent years commuting on the M4 around Newport and have experienced the ongoing issues with congestion. I am hugely disappointed by this stance; the M4 infrastructure is not only on its last legs, but if no discussions will be had around it at all, what solutions do you intend to have up your sleeve when the inevitable day comes when that part of the M4 needs to shut for major repairs? Where do you suggest commuters turn to for alternatives, as I imagine this will be the reality before any public transport solution gets the green light?


While I am in favour of looking at alternative, sustainable transport infrastructure solutions across Wales for the future including carbon offsetting or neutrality where possible, the M4 is not going anywhere and so it does need “hankering” about further, as you described discussions surrounding it. Having reviewed the South East Wales Transport Report it appears the ‘black route’ still remains the only solution tabled which can be implemented straight away. Couple that with the announcement that train price hikes for commuters in Newport will be around 1.6% in January 2021, something needs to be done with the end-users in mind before travelling around this area prices and infuriates people from all backgrounds out, leading to a stifled local economy.


And yes, while home-working is a big topic of conversation during these times, people still want to be out, and I don’t see traffic reducing as much as a result of this as you might think. We won’t see much of a difference in terms of motorway traffic levels, but with less congestion on the road, it will significantly reduce commuting time and allow people to focus on well-being activities such as exercising and spending quality time with families – aspects the lockdown period highlighted to us as precious time we won’t ever get back. Importantly, this approach will have significant economic benefits to all of Wales, not just those local to the M4.


As the UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said on BBC Radio Wales (21 August 2020), the relief road is in “all our interests to make sure our country as a whole is connected up. The majority of exports from Wales go to other parts of the United Kingdom, of course it makes sense we have the best possible connections.”


This section of motorway was built during a time when little attention was paid to quality control. The level of congestion will also continue to infuriate businesses and commuters for years to come and will only be detrimental to the economic growth of the whole of Wales.  People still need to have the confidence that they can move goods and provide services seamlessly without worrying about getting it from A to B. Local supply chains are ready and willing to be engaged to work on this, which would enable communities to work together towards a common goal. Our local communities don’t just want this project off the ground for their own benefits; they want to pull together and really show that Wales, its language and heritage is open to the world for business.


While discussions may be off the table for now First Minister, it won’t be long until they have to be raised again, and actions taken accordingly.  So if you will not build the new road, you will need to implement an alternative solution quickly or accept that the economy and ultimately the quality of life of citizens may not be as good as it could be.


Pontypool-based Richard Selby, director, Pro Steel Engineering