South East Wales

M4 tunnel fire: Brynglas tunnel reopens

The Brynglas tunnel on the M4 motorway near Newport has fully reopened following a lorry fire on Tuesday.

But Transport Minister Carl Sargeant said there would be a 30mph speed limit as there was only partial lighting.

He said there had been work around the clock over the last 72 hours to clear debris and examine the tunnel on the westbound carriageway of the M4.

The lorry was removed on Wednesday and overnight high-pressure cleaning was completed to allow works to begin.

The Welsh Government said engineers spent Thursday carrying out a full structural, technical and safety inspection while a major clean-up operation continued.

The eastbound tunnel had been reopened on Tuesday afternoon with a contraflow system.

All damaged lighting in the tunnel was removed, and lighting in the eastern section was being cleaned, repaired and tested.

Mr Sargeant said: "Following the structural assessment that was concluded earlier this morning - and the considerable amount of work carried out on the tunnels over the last 72 hours - the westbound tunnel has now been reopened.

"This morning we have resurfaced sections of the tunnel, replaced white lining, replaced reflective studs and cleaned the tunnel bore and surfacing.

"The westbound tunnel will be opened with only partial lighting.

"It will therefore be opened under a 30mph speed restriction which will remain in place until we are able to carry out improvements to the tunnel over the coming weeks during a series of night time closures to minimise disruption to road users."

The minister said he wanted to express his appreciation "for the professionalism of the emergency services and the team, who have worked tirelessly to reopen the tunnel before the Friday rush-hour in addition to the patience and understanding of motorists".

He added: "The initial blaze was dealt with expediently, with the safety of motorists paramount.

Image caption The tunnel, described as the main artery into Wales, reopened fully to traffic on Friday afternoon

"The fact that there were no fatalities or injuries, even though the fire took place during rush hour, is a testament to the skill and dedication of the emergency professionals involved."

Described as the main artery into Wales, the tunnel was closed on Tuesday morning following the incident at about 0830 BST.

Despite the severity of the blaze, and the chaos that followed, the lorry driver escaped unhurt.

Firefighters spent most of the day tackling the blaze, and black smoke was seen billowing from the tunnel.

Drivers caught in the congestion reported taking up to an hour to travel a mile, with lengthy tailbacks spanning several junctions.

The incident has re-opened the debate on whether an M4 relief road is needed.

Speaking before the reopening, Rhodri-Gwynn Jones, director of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association Wales, said the heat from the blaze could have caused concrete to expand and crack.

Keith Jones, director of the Institution of Civil Engineers Wales, said the tunnel's steel roof, which was extensively damaged, would be removed so workers could get to the concrete lining underneath.

The cost of repairing the 44-year-old tunnel "could run from tens of thousands of pounds to millions, depending on extent of the damage", but would be covered by insurance, he said.

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