Sunday 11 March 2012

M4 Newport consultation and rail upgrades in Gwent

The Welsh Government have, at last, formally launched their consultation into possible solutions to the "bottleneck" at the Brynglas Tunnels in Newport. The consultation website is here and comments are due by 6th June.

I'm on record opposing a new M4 bypass around Newport, as is Syniadau. It would be complete overkill and likely to become a costly white elephant, especially if it were tolled to help pay for the £1bn+ construction costs. That would be a double-toll on entry to Wales if the Severn Bridge tolls weren't removed at the same time.

The Welsh Government, following on from the previous Welsh Government, have short to medium-term plans to improve the duel-carriageway that runs to the south of the Glan Llyn development site and Llanwern Steelworks. It's a relatively inexpensive way to partially solve the problem. If local traffic were encouraged to use this - combined with the selective closing of slip-roads on the M4 through Newport - it could help reduce congestion and provide more resilience to the Brynglas Tunnels. It would probably mean that this road would need to be upgraded, perhaps with a few grade-seperated junctions, to ensure it's a "proper option" for drivers.

BBC Wales, The Western Mail and South Wales Argus have reported that one option on the table is the widening of the Brynglas Tunnels themselves at the cost of some £550m. That's probably a good "middle option" between the "sledgehammer and nut" M4 bypass and the "bang for buck" Llanwern improvement.

As I'm not an engineer, I can't give informed comment on a project like that, but I would assume it would cause massive disruption and probably lead to the demolition of the houses above the tunnels. So, we would likely need an upgraded Llanwern improvement anyway during this period for diverted traffic. I goes without saying there's more than enough potential for a significant cost overrun.

It makes me wonder if it's a genuine Welsh Government option, one for the construction company or just an opportunity to pick a fight with Westminster over borrowing powers.

Credit where it's due, I made a point about Labour echo-cho-ho-o-ing previously announced announcements a few weeks ago, including this, so it's nice to have something on the table at last.

On public transport options in the area - and in my opinion that's just as important - SEWTA published documents last year on possible upgrades to rail services in Gwent including (for definite):
  • A new two-platform station at Caerleon adjacent to St Cadoc's Hospital
  • Upgrade to Abergavenny station– including new car parking off the A465, DDA footbridge, bus turning circle and possible bay platform for additional services in the future
  • Upgrade to Cwmbran station – including new car park on Somerset Road, DDA footbridge and ticket machines
  • Minor improvements to Pontypool & New Inn station with possibility of future park and ride site
  • An extra two-hourly service

And also proposed/rejected at present/future improvements:
  • New stations at Llantarnam and Sebastopol on Marches Line
  • New station at Llanwern on South Wales Mainline with linked bus service and park and ride site.
  • Upgrade to Severn Tunnel Junction station, with new station building, large park and ride site and possible future direct access from M48
  • Improved Chepstow station with DDA footbridge, new ticket office and toilets


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