Do the maths

We knew that Associated British Ports had objected to the proposed M4 relief road in Newport.

What we did not know is how seriously the Welsh Government was taking that objection, and the answer is £135m serious.

Newport docks has a special status in the planning process, together with organisations like National Grid and other utility providers, because of its importance to the wider economy.

The idea behind this offer, which has come very late in the day, is that none of these bodies will tell the planning inspector they have any objections.

In contrast, there will be organisations that still object such as wildlife groups but they will do so on the basis of environmental legislation.

Solutions and not problems

Welsh Government officials had been trying to make progress in talks with ABP since 2013 but it was only last year that the discussions moved towards what was described to me as "solutions and not about problems."

All eyes will now be on the recommendation from the planning inspector in the spring.

The Welsh Government has already said it wants to build the road but a final call is expected in the summer.

Plaid are against but the Conservatives will follow the inspector, which means that if the inquiry supports the motorway then the government will have the numbers even if there are a few rebels within their ranks.

Despite the political arithmetic, the maths are still a big problem for ministers.


When they make the case for the road at a cost of £1.3bn then people need to believe them, and remember it was only two years ago the First Minister was saying it would cost nowhere near £1bn.

What will not exactly inspire confidence either are developments on the Heads of the Valleys road scheme, currently the most expensive in Wales, which is running £50m over-budget.

On a different note, the scale of this project is vast. The towers for the bridges over the River Usk will be 146 metres if the project goes ahead, which is double the height of the nearby transporter bridge and even higher than the second Severn crossing.

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