Chancellor George Osborne is planning to announce a new funding commitment for a £1bn bypass of the M4 Brynglas tunnels in South Wales in the government’s June Comprehensive Spending Review.
Osborne last week denied newspaper reports stating that tolls would be levied to pay for the bypass. This contradicts the government’s previously stated aim of seeking to toll new infrastructure.
“Tolling is not being considered for the M4, but we can work with the Welsh Assembly Government to secure funding for this road,” said Osborne.
“It’s clearly an important scheme and I am hoping in the next couple of months to be giving it the go ahead.”
NCE understands that the Welsh Assembly is also firmly against the idea of tolling a new M4 relief road because the existing and new routes would both have to be tolled, adding to the toll drivers already have to pay to use the Severn Crossings.
Plans for an M4 relief road were dropped from the Welsh Assembly’s programme of road improvements in 2009 when it became clear that funding allowances from Westminster would not cover the project costs.
According to an interim report from the Welsh Integrated Transport Task Force, Wales is facing a 45% transport funding cut in real terms up to 2015.
A Welsh Assembly spokesman said: “We have been pressing for an agreed funding package for a strategic enhancement to the M4 for many months. It’s very welcome that the chancellor has expressed support in principle and said a decision will be made on the details shortly.
“However, no deal has been done yet and we will continue to work through the important issues that remain to be resolved,” the spokesman added.
Beside the question of funding, problems include a challenge to the assembly’s plans from environmental groups. The route to the south of the Brynglas tunnels would go through the environmentally sensitive Gwent Levels.