Question to the Minister for Economy and Transport

Jayne Bryant, Assembly Member for Newport West:
Thank you for your statement, Minister. And, as the Member for Newport West, I’m sure you’d appreciate I have many questions, but I’ll keep them as brief as I can.
Firstly, I welcome the Minister’s commitment to listening to the people whose daily lives are affected by the road. How exactly will the commission ensure that these views are fully captured? The vast majority of M4 traffic around Newport is not local traffic. With so much cross-border travel and an increase of 10 per cent of journeys on the bridges, can the Minister confirm that the commission will look at traffic travelling to and from England?
I’m pleased that the statement recognises the need to alleviate congestion and resultant air quality issues. In the immediate instance, what discussions have the Minister’s officials had with Newport council officials to ensure that Newport are able to access funds already in place to tackle air quality?
In reference to the projects designed to bring modest but immediate benefits, such as the additional traffic officers and dedicated recovery vehicles, my constituents will be asking why these haven’t been put in place before. And what evidence has been drawn upon that demonstrates that these will work effectively?
And, finally, and possibly most importantly, the people of Newport have suffered for long enough and have seen many reviews come and go. What reassurances can the Minister provide that this commission will finally be the one that actually delivers meaningful results?
Ken Skates AM, Minister for Economy and Transport:
Can I thank Jayne Bryant for her questions, and her very great concern over the impact that yesterday’s decision will have for her constituents. I know that Jayne has been a very keen supporter of the black route, and is very disappointed that the project is not going ahead. However, can I assure the Member and her constituents that we are determined to solve the problem of congestion on the M4 in Newport, and to reduce levels of air pollution along that particular corridor, I believe the figure for the reduction of air pollution that was considered to be medium or high would have been about 500 for the black route—500 homes; I think 12 would have seen a very significant reduction; and over 10,000 would have seen a very small reduction—nonetheless a reduction. So, I’m conscious of the need for us to implement solutions that will drive down levels of air pollution, and I’m absolutely committed to that—so are my colleagues across Government.
Newport council, I’m pleased to say, have engaged already with Welsh Government concerning proposals for the M4. Engagement has gone on now for many years and will continue with regard to alternatives. Insofar as the immediate responses, and the question that was raised about why we haven’t implemented these to date, well, it’s because we have tested the additional patrol systems and the immediate response
and recovery systems on the A55. They have been tested and they have proven to be successful. That enables us now to move them out onto the M4, with confidence that they will alleviate congestion.
Jayne Bryant also raised a very important point of ensuring that citizens have a voice in this process. And I’ll be discussing on Monday with Lord Burns how people will be able to contribute, in terms of their views, opinions and their concerns. And it may well be in some form of a citizens’ assembly, but that is something that I wish the commission itself to bring forward proposals on. Again, I would like to thank Jayne Bryant for her keen concern over this issue, for many months and years. I can assure her that the commission will look at all of the transport models that exist, and all of the transport flow data that we are armed with, including the transport data concerning cross-border flows, in order to ensure that we produce either a solution or a set of solutions that are deliverable in the short term, as well as also, of course, leading to behavioural change and modal shift in the longer term.