I was concerned at the time the previous Welsh Government ditched the M4 relief road plans that, by taking the decision solely on cost grounds, there was a danger that the beast would be resurrected. And that has duly come to pass, according to this report from the BBC last week.
Strangely, the cost seems to have more or less halved from the £1 billion it was going to cost in 2009 to a ‘mere’ £550 million now. It’s far from clear why the alternative scheme now proposed wasn’t part of the consideration in 2009; but either way, it’s still an enormous cost for a fairly short section of road.
Last week, Carwyn Jones seemed to be using the scheme as some sort of a stick with which to demand borrowing powers for the Assembly. It could only go ahead, he said, if the Government was granted such powers. In short, the government isn’t against the scheme as such; it merely cannot afford to build it. That is not, as the Tory spokesperson claimed, a U-turn from the decision taken in 2009, merely a re-affirmation of the thinking behind that decision by the One Wales minister, who never actually claimed to be against increasing the M4 capacity as such.
Those who thought they had won the battle will now have to engage in the debate afresh when the scheme really could and should have been ruled out more comprehensively at the time. There really are better ways of using these amounts of capital, if it were to become available, which will have more economic impact and less environmental impact.