The public inquiry into the controversial Newport M4 ‘Black Route’ relief road has been told that its economic benefits will outweigh the cost by two to one.
The inquiry began this week, with inspector William Wadrup hearing evidence into the Welsh Government’s plans to bypass a motorway bottleneck at Newport.
Welsh Government economist Stephen Bussell, who carried out economic appraisals of the project, stated that when wider impacts are included, the Net Present Value of the scheme was £1.17bn with a Benefit Cost Ratio of 2.22.
This is based on economic benefits of £2.12bn against a cost of £952m.
The Welsh Government selected the 'Black Route'
The Welsh Government says its proposal is ‘considered to be the sustainable, long-term solution to current social, environmental and economic problems associated with this route’ and ‘forms an essential part of our vision for an efficient integrated transport system in South Wales’.
The plan is opposed by a number of groups, including the Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT).
Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at CfBT, said: ‘The M4 Black Route would be a disaster for nature, climate and public health. This road was first conceived of 25 years ago and we now know that building more roads does not address the problem of congestion, it only make it worse.
She said the inquiry ‘needs to look at genuine alternatives including rail freight and public transport options to get unnecessary journeys off the roads and reduce congestion’.
A number of wildlife groups such as RSPB Cymru oppose the plan. It has submitted written evidence to the public inquiry highlighting some of the ecological impacts the chosen route would have on the Gwent Levels area, including the fact it separates the breeding ground of a pair of cranes from their feeding ground.
Mr Wadrup said his inquiry would hear up to 22 possible alternatives to the Welsh Government's chosen route, including a proposal for a tunnel similar in scale to the Channel Tunnel.