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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 12:36 GMT
Dual carriageway for west Wales
Plans for a major improvement to the main traffic artery into Pembrokeshire are included in a new road building programme unveiled by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The main A40 trunk road from St Clears in Carmarthenshire to Haverfordwest is to be upgraded to a dual carriageway, effectively extending the M4 motorway link to the west Wales coast.

The A470 north-to south trunk road will also be improved under the 10-year rolling assembly plan.

Transport Minister Sue Essex
Transport Minister Sue Essex: Priorities
But controversial plans to build a new six-lane motorway costing up to £400m around the new city of Newport have been shelved.

Welsh Transport Minister Sue Essex said she had decided to reserve judgement on the proposed M4 link to relieve an often congested motorway around Newport.

"Prioritising is always difficult and some schemes make take time to build, but it is important to local businesses and communities to understand the long-term picture of what we are trying to achieve."

The M25-style link - already dotted in on some road atlases - had been eagerly sought by civic and business leaders.

But there had been strong opposition on environmental grounds of possible damage to the important bird habitats on the Gwent Levels, and also in terms of the project's cost put at somewhere between £300m and £400m.

The gutsy thing to do would be to put the £80m or so A40 dualling cash directly into Pembrokeshires local businesses, agricultural sector and public transport services

Neil Crumpton

"It is too important a proposal to rush," Ms Essex added.

"We need to examine it in the context of long-term growth and change across the whole of south Wales, and neighbouring English districts."

However, major projects to improve trunk road corridors around Wales have been given the go-ahead, including a range of improvements to the A470 linking the north and south of the country.

The £60m dualling of the A40 west of St Clears is expected to begin within the next six years, subject to the project meeting European environmental assessments.

Campaigners have long been calling for improvements to this road, opening up possibilities for new commercial and tourism investment in one of Wales's most economically deprived areas.

But Neil Crumpton of Friends of the Earth Cymru said: "The gutsy thing to do would be to put the £80m or so A40 dualling cash directly into Pembrokeshire¿s local businesses, agricultural sector and public transport services."

Also targeted in the programme is the next stage of the dualling of the A465 Heads of the Valleys road, and the widening of the M4 between Castleton and Coryton.

Road sign
Environmental campaigners have condemned the A40 plans

The Welsh Assembly Government is also supporting the development of public transport improvements to help ease travel problems in the south east of Wales, said Ms Essex.

Among the measures, is the body's £7m contribution to the re-opening of the Ebbw Valley rail line for passengers, announced earlier year.

The reopening of the old line is part of a package drawn up to help stimulate the Blaenau Gwent area in the wake of the steel plant closure at Ebbw Vale.

In February, the UK Government announced it was to spend £22m on roads around Deeside in north Wales to cut congestion, delays and accidents.

The money will be spent on improving links between Deeside Industrial Park and the M56 over the border in England.

BBC Wales's Roger Pinney
"Environmentalists say the £300m to £400m it would cost could be better spent."
Anti relief-road campaigner Amanda Martin
"In the 90s it became clear that building new motorways in congested networks doesn't solve the problem."
BBC Wales's Roger Pinney
"It is just about the busiest stretch of road in Wales"
See also:

27 Feb 02 | Wales
Major roads boost for Deeside
30 Jan 02 | England
£1.68bn road plan unveiled
31 Jul 98 | UK Politics
Road scheme details in full
03 Aug 00 | UK
M-way congestion targeted
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