Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport
This statement updates members regarding the integration of the proposed M4 Corridor around Newport Project with Newport Docks.
A public inquiry is ongoing to scrutinise whether the M4 Project, in collaboration with the Cardiff City Region Metro, is the long-term, sustainable solution to the serious and worsening problems associated with the M4 around Newport.
In March 2016, the port owner and operator Associated British Ports (ABP) objected to the scheme which would bridge over Newport Docks. A resilient port industry plays a vital role in our economy and society, and it is of course right that the potential new interface of road, rail and maritime infrastructure is well planned with a long-term view.
I can now report that collaboration between Welsh Government and ABP has developed a detailed scope of enabling works to integrate Newport Docks with the M4 Project. The works include construction and refurbishment of quays, rearrangements of tenants and replacement of cranes, shaped around the new section of motorway and its new junction connecting the docks to the Trans European Motorway Network.
This Welsh port supports approximately 2500 jobs and contributes £173m per year to the Welsh economy. The enabling works would safeguard employment across the many sectors the port serves including steel, timber, agriculture, renewable energy generation and recycling. Welsh Government‘s investment would be targeted to achieve 70% construction spend with Welsh SMEs and leave an infrastructure legacy to meet the needs of future generations.
The enabling works have been assessed by maritime and property advisors and officials to cost an additional £136m. The M4 Project Business Case has been reviewed to take these costs into account, as well as removal of the Severn crossing tolls, and continues to demonstrate that the project represents value for money. The benefit to cost ratio has been conservatively assessed as 1.7 for direct transport benefits alone, rising to 2.3, considered high value for money, when some wider economic benefits are included.
In order to ensure business continuity of the docks, 18 months of works to relocate affected businesses must be completed prior to construction of the new road bridge. This means the opening date of the new section of motorway is now forecast to be autumn 2023, although consideration is being given to phasing of opening sections in 2022. This revised programme provides opportunities to carry out environmental mitigation works earlier and to de-risk matters such as complex utility diversions and archaeological investigations.
Despite the associated extension of the public inquiry it is still expected that works could commence as soon as next summer. I must stress that the works would only be constructed, and funding allocated for this purpose, if a decision is made to build the M4 Corridor around Newport Project. I anticipate that final decision can be made in the summer in light of all views being heard at the public inquiry and the inspectors’ report being received. I would like to again make it very clear that the goals and ways of working of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act will be central to that decision making, which I am keen to ensure is made in an open and transparent way to members.
Continuing the spirit of previous updates I have provided to members, I have made this announcement to ensure that the best and most up-to-date information is available to all on this major project. Updated detailed evidence on the technical and economic aspects of the enabling works have been published on the inquiry website (m4-newport.persona-pi.com) and can be scrutinised by all, including the independent inquiry inspectors, before a final decision is made on whether to build this project.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.