Wales politics

M4 upgrade cheaper than £1.4bn relief road 'would be attractive'

M4 at Newport

A cheaper alternative to the M4 relief road "would be attractive", Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford has said.

In an interview with BBC Wales, Mr Drakeford suggested he could support an alternative to the Welsh Government's preferred black-route scheme.

The project, which could cost more than £1.4bn, would see a motorway built around Newport.

Mr Drakeford is the only declared candidate in the race to be the next first minister and Welsh Labour leader.

He spoke to BBC Wales ahead announcing a package of £266m for infrastructure.

For a number of years the Welsh Government has planned to build a new stretch of motorway - known as the black route - to bypass congestion problems at the M4's Brynglas Tunnels.

But last week the Welsh Conservatives accused outgoing First Minister Carwyn Jones of putting the M4 relief road into doubt, after he said he had no strong preference for the Welsh Government-backed scheme.

Other proposals have included the so-called blue route - an upgrade of existing non-motorway roads in Newport - and a new tunnel at Brynglas.

The former has been previously attacked by Mr Jones, while the latter sparked a protest campaign when it was explored by the Welsh Government before ministers backed the black route.

A public inquiry into the black route is expected to publish its findings at the end of the year.

Image caption Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government's preferred option was the black route

Mr Drakeford said money set aside for the Welsh Government's preferred route "would be there for other possibilities if the local public inquiry were to propose that a better solution was available and that eventually came through the government's consideration".

He added: "I'm the finance minister in the Welsh Government. If we could have a solution that cost us less then of course that would be attractive to me, because there's always other things we would be able to do with that money.

"But what I have done is make sure that if the proposal that the government has put to the inquiry is the one that the inquiry endorses, that the inquiry and others know we are in the position practically to take that forward."

Mr Drakeford made the comments ahead of an announcement in the Senedd on £266m to be spent on infrastructure in Wales over the next three years.

It includes £60m for walking and cycling plans, £60m for health schemes, £30m for superfast broadband, £25m for the automotive industry in Ebbw Vale and £15m for community focused schools.

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