Thursday, 26 April 2012


M4 Brynglas Tunnels
As a resident of Newport for most of my life save for when I was away in University and living and working in London, I have lived with the Brynglas Tunnels one way or another for most of my life. Plaid in Shaftesbury Ward and Newport are part of the growing opposition to Option D - the construction of an additional 4 lane tunnel at Brynglas - as part of the M4 Corridor enhancement measures as put out to consultation by the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff.

Plaid is aware that should Option D be chosen then this would lead to compulsory purchases within the Brynglas area. The proposition is to increase the M4 around Newport to 4 lanes each way between Junction 28 (Tredegar Park) and Junction 24 (The Coldra). Details of the proposals can be found at: Residents wanting to lodge objections have until Wednesday 6th June 2012 to do so via the website.

The on-line petition can be found at:

Join the ‘Newport Oppose £550 M plans of New Brynglas Tunnel & Demolition of Homes; facebook group via:

There will be a public meeting at 6pm on Friday 27th April at Brynglas House, Newport about the proposed expansion to the M4.


The M4 across the top of Newport was originally constructed in the late 1960’s and was built as a four lane (two each) motorway by the old Welsh Office. The tunnels at Brynglas likewise were bored as two lane tunnels, one each way. It is generally believed by many people in South Wales that the M4 was only built with four lanes in Wales to save money, certainly even as late as the 1980’s when the M4 was built north of Cardiff it was still being constructed as a four lane highway.

Whatever the real truth the planners displayed an amazing lack of foresight when it came to the growth in road traffic and road transport. The motorway around Newport was rich in junctions which meant that people used it to get from one side of town to the other side – this added to congestion problems at peak times (around 40% of people using the M4 around Newport are making local journeys).

The problem of congestion of the M4 though and around Newport has been a real and pressing concern since the 1980’s. This vital transport link is particularly vulnerable to car crashes, which can cause gridlock as did the more recent the fire on a lorry in the tunnels. Since the early 1990’s consideration has been given to how to fix the problem, some junctions have been amended to deter local use, but this has not really helped.

An M4 relief road was considered in the 1990’s and in the late 2000’s during the period of the One Wales Government (2007 – 2011) but it was finally dropped because of excessive cost. What followed was a systematic programme of enhancing the existing motorway, with improvements to the carriageway and the introduction of variable speed limits.


Since January 2011 there has been a consultation process with stakeholders and more latterly with members of the public. The consultation with members of the public has been patchy with over 500 people attending meetings in Caldicot and barely 30 attending similar meetings in Newport.

It is my understanding that this is down to a lack of communication not necessarily a lack of interest on the part of people in the affected areas in Newport, who basically were not informed properly if at all. I am also aware that local ward Labour councillors appear to have been personally informed by the Welsh Office by email in 2011 but appear not to have passed that information to local residents.

Considering that the current Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff favours enhancing east – West communication links at all costs. This is in direct opposition to the strategy followed by Ieuan Wyn Jones (as Deputy First Minister and Minister of Transport) who favoured a much more of a balanced all Wales approach with enhanced North – South links as well as work to improve existing east - west links where there were problems.

The 4 Options

The new consultation process, which is being organised for WAG by ARUP (who happen incidentally amongst other things happen to construct tunnels), has identified four options:

  • Option A would involve the construction of an additional high quality road to the south of Newport, delivered alongside other traffic management and smarter choice measures (Incidentally this is the old M4 Gwent Levels Relief Road reborn – the one that was dropped due to a combination of cost (over a billion pounds at the time), environmental impact and the banking crash/crisis). It would have come in at around 800 million (and then some...).
  • Option B would involve a series of at-grade junction improvements to the Newport A48 Southern Distributor Road (SDR) in addition to other traffic management and smarter choice measures. (This involves the enhancement of the existing Southern Distributor Road (SDR) with flyovers at junctions to speed traffic flow and linking that to the Queensway dual carriage way which would then run though the Llanwern site from Magor to Ringland). It comes in at around 45 million.
  • Option C would involve the grade separation of some junctions and partial or full closure of other junctions on the Newport A48 Southern Distributor Road (SDRSDR, as an alternative route to the M4. It would come in at around £300m.
  • Option D would involve a programme of major on-line widening of the existing M4 Corridor between Junctions 24 and 29 to dual 4 lane motorway standard with hard shoulders, as shown in red on the following diagram. This would see four lanes of traffic in each direction along this section of the M4, including an additional (4 lane) tunnel at Brynglas. Some demolition of existing properties is likely to be necessary to accommodate the online widening and additional tunnel. [NB: This option would impact on housing across Newport from west of the High Cross junction to the Coldra – particularly in Shaftesbury and St Julians]. Junction 25 would be closed to motorway access and the east facing slips of Junction 26 would be removed in order to prioritise the M4 for long distance journeys. Online widening would also be supported by other traffic management and smarter choice measures. Works could be phased in order to improve affordability. It would come in at around £550m.
There are some other points of interest:

  • WAG conceded in 2011 that there are no studies on the effect of traffic congestion on the Welsh economy. 
  • Additionally the Data on traffic flow is not current, but, dates form prior to the current recession and period of high fuel prices. The combined impact of the recession and high fuel prices has led to a drop in traffic flow on the Severn Bridges. This is why the toll franchise on the Severn Bridge has been extended because of the projected drop in revenue for the concession holder. 
  • WAG has also admitted that there are areas where air pollution levels are high along parts of the M4 Corridor, Magor to Castleton. Air pollution is measured via Air Quality Management Areas (or AQMAs) - these are created where air pollution levels are high enough to be a potential health risk and WAG acknowledges that traffic emissions contribute towards air pollution. 
  • For the record Newport has a total of nine AQMAs; four of which are located adjacent to the M4, at: Shaftesbury/Crindau; St Julians; Royal Oak Hill; and Glasllwch.
Useful Websites and Documents:
M4 Corridor Enhancement Measures Programme: Magor to Castleton (M4 CEM)

M4 Corridor Enhancement Measures Magor to Castleton (M4 CEM) Easing the Flow

[This document contains useful maps and additional data.]

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