M4 Diversion Black Route – Reasons for Opposing
Our fight is “not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress”. So said famous environmentalist John Muir, over 100 years ago. That precisely sums up much of the opposition to the misconceived M4 Diversion. Plus ça change …..!
If / when it comes to an Assembly vote once again, please consider if this would be a wise investment for Wales, or a huge mistake. Hundreds of your constituents – many members of the conservation and community groups that are objecting, and others – are convinced it is the latter.
To summarise the main points from objections: -
* Alternatives avoiding motorway solution were not properly assessed
* If South Wales Metro is not a complete failure, it will relieve M4 commuter traffic, new motorway is not needed
* Evidence for the traffic / congestion / accident case is not there – mainly ‘spin’, the M4 east rush hour is no worse than any other city peripheral motorway – or in fact other lengths of the M4 in Wales.
* Congestion that is rapidly worsening is in Cardiff – a new major route into Cardiff before Metro will gridlock the city
* Highway ‘Resilience’ case (no bypass route) – the Blue Route would solve that
* Business case not made – many criticisms – £1bn cost a huge underestimate
* Environment – Welsh Govt flouting its own policies for recognising crucial wildlife protection – confirming it is an anti-environment administration
* Heritage & culture – degrading, probably destroying, the unique & precious Gwent Levels landscape that has already been diminished by development
* Commissioner for Future Generations has questioned whether the process has complied with the WFG Act (it has not)
* This enormous expenditure in SE Wales would deprive other areas of Wales of investment – for no sound reason
See attachment for more detail (below)

Please do not let Welsh Govt make an appalling mistake that will be remembered and quoted for years.
Trusting that good sense will in the end prevail, I wish you a very happy and restful Christmas, and for the New Year, please reflect on conservation of our wonderful Welsh countryside for our Future Generations, as in the ground-breaking WFG Act – great talk, but please now ensure WG walks the walk.


M4 Diversion – Various Grounds of Objection

In project literature and at exhibitions, Welsh Government’s (WG) representatives said: –

1.  Traffic is increasing, congestion is terrible, this length of M4 is dangerous


  • Traffic – published traffic flows on this length of M4 show little increase in 15 years. Traffic flows nationally have plateaued. WG’s forecasts for 2035 are pie in the sky.  
  • Congestion – WG cannot produce statistics on congestion (I have repeatedly asked), so how do they know? They do not. Yes, M4 is busy in rush hours (some 12% of the week) – so is every other urban peripheral motorway.
  • Safety – the EuroRAP Risk Rating of Britain’s Motorways and A Roads, published by the Road Safety Foundation, classes the M4 in SE Wales as one of the ‘Low risk (safest) roads’. 

In any case, the effect of rail electrification (underway) and the South Wales Metro were not properly taken into account – how can a well-designed area Metro not relieve M4 commuter traffic? The new M4 would be an extraordinarily wasteful duplication to solve that perceived problem – a very expensive white elephant. 

2.  There is a highway network resilience problem, a new route is needed

This is the only real justification for a new M4; blockage of the Brynglas tunnels is a serious, but rare, problem. BUT an alternative has been put forward by Prof. Stuart Cole – the Blue Route would provide that resilience at a third of the cost, and also add great benefits in better access to Newport docks and industry. The Blue Route has not been properly assessed by WG. 

3.  There is a business case for providing the new road

WG has put forward a business case, but it is far from convincing. The economic value of spending over £1bn in SE Wales is lacking. Prof Cole’s ‘Blue Route’ proposal puts it succinctly: - 

The Federation of Small Businesses concludes that there is “a lack of common sense” in the current consultation with the Government committing the vast majority of Wales’ future borrowing capacity to a single project. This, it says, is not in the best interest of the wider Welsh economy.

Road policy in England from 2015 is to improve existing main roads, and not to build new motorways. It is very evident that there are similar needs for road improvements all over Wales, not least in NE Wales, and to improve north-south links. (Apart from its sub-standard character and notoriously slow journey times, almost the whole of the A470 is classed as ‘High risk’ in the Risk Rating mentioned above). Spending £1bn on the M4 in SE Wales will preclude other spending for years. A new motorway is out-of-date policy. To emphasise, this proposal would economically disbenefit areas of Wales outside the South-East.

More locally, Cardiff is already congested in commuting hours, yet this proposal in advance of Metro will add another major traffic flow. Cardiff will gridlock.

FoE also highlight major flaws in the flimsy ‘business case’, including costs not included which would substantially increase the cost of the scheme. This calculation puts the real cost of the scheme to be nearer to £2bn than £1bn, and the benefit / cost ratio to be close to 1, not 2. These are serious criticisms which would undermine the whole economic basis of the scheme, and must be answered.

4.  The environment has been considered

This is probably the most disingenuous argument. A new length of M4 flies in the face of all WG’s stated sustainability, environmental and cultural policies, and in particular the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. The Commissioner for Future Generations made her view clear early on in a letter to the Minister – that the proposal is not in accord with the Act. All the national environmental and wildlife bodies have also written to the First Minister, asking him to reconsider. A few examples –

  • The Wildlife Trusts are very critical of the abysmal failure of successive Welsh administrations to hit their own biodiversity targets (thus precluding our future generations’ enjoyment of, for example, fritillaries – butterflies and plants. And the need for pollinators, pharmaceuticals and myriad other interconnected essentials for human life), and much wildlife is still declining – a new M4 would considerably speed that up on the Levels;
  • Friends of the Earth point out that contrary to WG’s rhetoric, a new major road adding a new traffic flow will increase total CO2 emissions and climate change; and the properly estimated total cost is more like £1.5bn than £1bn
  • Campaign for Better Transport says “The M4 Black Route would be a disaster for nature, climate and public health. The Public Inquiry needs not just to look at less damaging road options, but how we use rail freight and public transport alternatives to get unnecessary journeys off the roads and reduce congestion. The new administration should abandon this expensive and damaging road project and unite people behind better alternatives.” 

5.  Other grounds of objection

There is much more – read the full published objections from the conservation groups, especially from Friends of the Earth and Campaign for Better Transport.

And can WG really contradict criticism that this expensive white elephant in south-east Wales would mean less infrastructure spending in all other regions, and/or other budget heads? Think about north, west & mid-Wales, not just south-east.

AND REMEMBER, THE WELSH LOCAL AND NATIONAL CONSERVATION BODIES REPRESENT MANY THOUSANDS OF RESIDENTS – WELSH VOTERS. As John Muir said over 100 years ago, our fight is “not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress”. Plus ca change …..