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Wales fears isolation after M4 upgrade is ruled out

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WELSH BUSINESS fears isolation from Britain's financial centre, following the publication of the South West multi-modal study last week, which rejected improvements to the M4.

'The improvement of the M4 gateway cannot remain on the too difficult or too expensive shelf much longer, or it may become a hindrance to economic growth, ' said David Rosser, Wales director of business lobbyist CBI last week.

The Welsh Assembly has already shelved plans for the £300M M4 relief road between Magor and Castleton, near Newport in South Wales in its Trunk Road Forward Programme published in March (NCE 28 March).

The programme made it clear that approval for the project would hinge on the Wales Spatial Plan and the South West Area Multi-Modal Study (SWARMS).

But SWARMS has largely rejected road improvements, with 75% of the £3bn cost of implementation going on rail improvements, including doubling capacity on the Great Western main line.

'The doubling of rail services to London is very much welcomed, but the M4 in Newport is a major concern, ' Rosser told an Institution of Civil Engineers conference in Cardiff.

Earlier, Wales transport minister Sue Essex had acknowledged the limited capacity of the M4 through Newport as a major issue, but stressed that a decision could only be made when the full facts were available.

'We welcome Ms Essex's recognition of the M4 as a strategic problem and we will be delighted to see what she is going to do about it, ' said Rosser.

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