The recent rugby international between England and Ireland met with mixed emotions from ardent Welsh fans like me and many others. Of course, the England result was disappointing to us but what would have been even more disappointing was the experience that many visiting fans would have ‘enjoyed’ when trying to enter Wales via the M4.
I have often commented on the importance of an integrated transport infrastructure and all it adds to the economy of Wales, let alone the impression it presents to our neighbours and visitors.
At the moment, transport experts are carrying out a review on the subject, looking at the details of how best to solve this longstanding and thorny issue, any many are contributing and putting forward their views. For the business leaders I speak to day in, day out, the message on improving the M4 is clear: get it done and get it done quickly.
We have conducted various surveys among our members for some time now, which have revealed that the M4 and major road links to north Wales still need to be drastically improved at busy junctions - congestion must be relieved and accident figures reduced.
We at the IoD called for an overhaul of the M4 along with electrification of the South Wales and North Wales rail lines; improved rail and road links to Manchester and Liverpool cities and airports; improvements to the A55 and increasing airline routes; as part of the ten-point plan for the economy we outlined last year.
In the past we have also united with the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF), Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Wales and the South Wales Chamber of Commerce to make our sentiments clear to Assembly members that there is a clear consensus that transport network improvements play a key role in enabling economic prosperity. The M4 relief road has long been considered to be the most efficient solution to this.
The delivery of an M4 relief road is probably the most important transport infrastructure project in Wales and having viewed the options, the IoD have nailed our colours the mast and that colour is black!
The black route, we believe, offers the best possible opportunity for a long term solution that will meet the challenges of today’s traffic and those of the future.
The M4 around Newport is currently not fit for purpose and utilises some of the UK’s oldest motorway tunnels in the UK. It was built to standards and traffic flows much lower than today.
Clearly, businesses and communities will reap the rewards of a dependable M4 relief road that, rather than presenting frequent delays and congestion, will flow freely and be a thoroughfare that businesses can depend on as a crucial link between Wales and the markets and opportunities available on our doorstep.
So, for us and the IoD, the choice is clear: we need the relief road to happen and the sooner the better. We are not in need of short-term fixes but rather long-term sustainable solutions and investment.
Let’s hope that by the time England rugby fans visit us again in 2019, we will be further ahead in terms of the M4 as well, of course, as on the pitch!
Robert Lloyd Griffiths is Director of the Institute of Directors in Wales www.iod.com