M4 relief road: Port objects to £1bn option around Newport
The owners of Newport docks are lodging an official objection to the proposed route of the £1bn M4 relief road.
The so-called black route would cut across the site and Associated British Ports warned the height of the carriageway would be too low for the biggest ships to get in and out.
Newport, the UK's second biggest steel-handling port, supports 3,000 jobs.
The aim of the relief road is to speed up journeys for commuters and ease congestion.
The proposals - first put forward 25 years ago - are for a 15-mile (24km) motorway and six-lane bridge over the River Usk to ease problems from the bottleneck at the Brynglas tunnels.
Bodies such as CBI Wales are impatient for work to start, with its chairman saying the congestion on the motorway into south Wales would "embarrass" the Victorians.
A Welsh Government study this year described what it said were some of the benefits:
- Construction would employ on average 700 employees a year for more than three-and-a-half years, with 20% of those jobs going to young workers entering the labour market
- £543m would be spent on goods and services
- Cost savings to businesses would be £40m a year by 2037
- South Wales' gross value added would increase by £74m by 2037
The overall assessment of the project said the benefits outweighed the costs by three to one, with the road "expected to improve perceptions of south Wales as a place to visit and do business and stimulate new investment".
But ABP said its Newport operation was worth £186m a year to the local economy and the black route - to be built across a 25m (82ft) high flyover over the River Usk and the docks - could put a dent in that.
Matthew Kennerley, ABP director for south Wales, said it "effectively cuts the port in two".
"It would take more than 80 acres of land from us - about 20% of the space we've got to handle current business and where we want to further develop in the future.
"The motorway would come in through the centre of the port at a height of 25m, that means the ships entering the north dock would be restricted in their air draught - so about 50% of the vessels would not be able to go there in the future."
ABP are officially objecting to the compulsory purchase of about 87 acres of land to make way for the project.
The company said it believed viable alternatives to the black route exist and a compromise was still possible.
ABP said it would need a "significant" increase in the height of the motorway so it could operate, with not only ships but movement of cranes and other plant affected.
The port handles 1.75 million tonnes of materials a year ranging from timber to animal feed.
Mr Kennerley said it was not about compensation but having a port that was flexible and the company had suggested an alternative crossing point for the motorway, slightly further north, with no luck.
M4 RELIEF ROAD - WHICH WAY FOR THE PARTIES?
- Labour pledged to "deliver a relief road for the M4". The black route has been its preferred option but there is no more detail in the manifesto
- Plaid Cymru said it would improve the M4 "through the more cost-effective blue route or a variation of it"
- The Conservatives would start work on an M4 relief road within 12 months of forming a government although it will look at reviewing the route options
- UKIP opposes the black route due to the cost and damage to wildlife areas, but is in favour of the blue route, upgrading the A48 at an estimated cost of £400m and starting in early 2017
- The Liberal Democrats oppose the black route and want alternative ways of improving congestion, including better public transport
- The Green Party would cancel the M4 relief road and are in favour of public transport improvements, including the south Wales Metro