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Leadership contest delays update on M4 relief road alternatives

Composite image showing Jeremy Miles (left), Vaughan Gething and an artist's impression of active travel corridors in Newport (Pic: Welsh Government)

THE CONTEST to replace Mark Drakeford as Wales’ first minister has delayed a report on Newport’s public transport overhaul.

A series of new railway stations will be built around the city, providing a “network of alternatives” for commuters fed up with motorway congestion.

But an annual progress report on that work has been delayed, and is not likely to be published until after the next first minister appoints cabinet members, the Local Democracy Reporting Service understands.

The Burns Delivery Unit was set up in the wake of Mr Drakeford cancelling the M4 relief road, tasked with overseeing several public transport projects for the city.

The two men vying to replace him in the top job – Vaughan Gething and Jeremy Miles – have both been supportive of the masterplan for improving public transport in Newport and ending reliance on the M4.

Speaking during a recent BBC debate, both men distanced themselves from reviving the relief road project.

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Mr Gething said “that ship has sailed” and backed plans for rail investment, while Mr Miles noted the Burns unit’s work and said he would not build a relief road even if the Welsh Government had the funds.

But progress on the public transport alternatives to the scrapped motorway project is unlikely to be made public until after the next first minister appoints his team.

That will include a new head of the nation’s transport brief, after deputy climate change minister Lee Waters indicated that he would be stepping down.

Ongoing projects for 2024 include developing new bus, bike and walking routes between Newport and Cardiff and to Severn Tunnel Junction; a bike hire scheme for Newport, and pilot schemes for “pay as you go” bus and rail services.

It is hoped that the series of new railway stations for Newport, along with upgrades to freight tracks to accommodate passenger trains, will all be completed by 2029, according to last year’s report.

Asked about the delay to this year’s publication, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We await the latest progress report from the Burns Delivery Board chairs on their progress over the last year, which has included public consultation on proposed improvements to the South Wales Mainline and new stations on it.”