The South East Wales Transport Commission report recommends ways to reduce congestion on the M4 motorway without building a new relief road around Newport.
Their main proposal is for a ‘network of alternatives’, providing a public transport alternative to the M4.
This centres on improving rail provision between Cardiff, Newport and Bristol by upgrading the existing four tracks of the South Wales Main Line, so that these tracks can be used by more trains with more flexibility.
Critics of the report however insist a relief road must be at the heart of plans to tackle M4 congestion.
Within the report’s recommendations are the addition of six new rail stations between Cardiff and the River Severn.
To complement existing stations at Cardiff Central, Newport and Severn Tunnel Junction, the proposed new stations would be: Newport Road (Cardiff), Cardiff Parkway (St Mellons), Newport West, Newport East (Somerton), Llanwern and Magor.
The rail backbone would be supported by new rapid bus and cycle corridors across the region, especially within Newport.
The plan would see over 90 percent of Cardiff and Newport’s population living within a mile of a rail station or rapid bus corridor if the proposals are taken forward.
Commission Chairman Lord Burns says: “The area around the M4 is a very important economic corridor for Wales. It is expanding and becoming an attractive place for people to work and live. Just like similar regions in the UK and other European countries, it needs a range of attractive, affordable and coordinated transport options to fulfil its potential.
“It is clear that people in South East Wales do not have good alternatives to the M4. Many people have little choice but to use the motorway, given the lack of public transport options. We believe that a competitively priced, efficient and reliable public transport network could become the first choice for many travellers.
“Even a moderate reduction in the number of cars travelling on the M4 could result in a significant improvement to the travel flow. The changes we are suggesting would generate considerable extra capacity in our region’s transport system. This shift to public and active transport would have many wider benefits beyond relieving congestion, including cutting air pollution, improving public health, and providing better access to jobs and services for everyone.”
The commission’s final recommendations follow their earlier fast-track recommendations relating to M4 traffic management, which included replacing the current variable speed limit with a new average 50mph speed control and measures to improve lane discipline on the approach to the Brynglas tunnels.
Commenting on the report, Russell George MS, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Minister for Economy, Business, and Infrastructure said: ““Let’s be clear: Welsh Conservatives are firm believers in tackling the problem of congestion on the M4 into and out of South Wales through a variety of means, and as the party that believes fundamentally in the ‘greening’ of industry and transport, we see much to recommend in the report – if measures are introduced alongside the much-needed M4 relief road.
“Just last week, Prime Minister Johnson outlined his 10-point plan for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, and Welsh Conservatives are firmly behind this multi-layered approach, which of course includes transport.
“The emphasis in the report on rail transport is laudable, but since Transport for Wales, which is a company owned by the Welsh Labour-led Government took responsibility for rail services, we have seen issue after issue, and a poorer service for rail commuters. it’s a clear case of putting the cart before the horse, because we do not yet have a rail service fit for the 21st century.”
Mr George continued: “Another major concern is the fudging of costs. One of few mentions of money is about a “Workplace Parking Levy’.
“Of course, ‘levy’ is just another word for ‘tax’ and the hint is made that that each employee in businesses in Cardiff and Newport could be taxed £434 a year just to park at their place of work.
“This, it’s claimed could realise some £10m revenue annually. At that rate, it will take only 15 years to claw back the money the government here wasted on the £157m M4 Relief Road inquiry.
“This year, Coronavirus has thrown much into confusion. Businesses and their employees don’t want confusion, but clarity and certainty.
“We’re certain, as are businesspeople and commuters, that an M4 relief road must be at the heart of any multi-stream plan to create a transport system fit not just for the rest of this decade, but long into the future.”
(Lead image: Transport for Wales)