Millions of pounds which were spent on the scrapped M4 relief road have been formally written off, ending any remaining hope that the project might go ahead.
The remaining £78.9m costs of the relief road were written down by the Welsh Government last week. It comes after £43.1m spent on the project was written off the previous year.
A total of £135.7m in public money has been spent on the M4 relief road, which would have seen a new road built to alleviate traffic congestion near the Brynglas Tunnels.
The money spent included development work like “environmental surveys, ground investigation data and transport models.” The road was officially scrapped in June 2019 after years of political wrangling, delays, disagreements over cost and environmental concerns.
You can read the full story on the failed M4 relief road here.
While there had been some hope among supporters of the road that the government could revisit the project given the costs so far, the government has ruled the millions of pounds spent on the work now has no immediate use and will be filed away until further notice, a further indication that it has no intention to revisit the road.
However, Welsh Government said this does not mean the work already carried out will never be used, insisting it “shall be referred to in future projects to maximise value to the public purse.”
The estimated cost of the road, which was first proposed back in 1991, before the Welsh Government even existed, had ballooned to £1.3 billion by the time First Minister Mark Drakeford announced it would not go ahead.
A Welsh Government statement said the decision to write down the remaining money for the project would be included in it accounts for 2020/21. It said this “does not mean that studies and data sets will be disregarded” and that the “data library created through the expenditure remain in Welsh Government ownership and shall be referred to in future projects to maximise value to the public purse.”
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The debate over the road has raged on in the years since it was cancelled. In March, the Newport Conservatives tabled a motion in Newport City Council asking for a referendum to be held in the city on whether or not to build the road. A watered-down motion asking the Welsh Government to “carefully consider” a referendum on the issue was later passed.
It has even stoked tensions between England and Wales, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledging to try to take forward the project, prompting a rebuttal from the Welsh Government stating that he has “no say in the M4 relief road”.
Earlier this year the planning protection for the proposed route, which had been in place for 25 years to prevent other developments being built where the road could have been, was also removed.
But the need to address traffic concerns in Newport has not gone away, and the road became a key issue in the recent elections in May.
The South East Wales Transport Commission, which was appointed by the government to examine possible alternatives to ease congestion in the area, recommended in November 2020 that six new train stations be built between Cardiff and Newport.