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M4 plans show N.Wales is still the poor relation.

Byline: WENDY JONES Twitter: @wendy_dp

SITTING in a massive traffic jam - westbound, just the other side of Queensferry - the other night, I took scant comfort from the news that the Welsh Government is to spend PS1 billion (yes, billion) on a "gold plated" relief road for the M4 near Newport.

I know that stretch of the M4 can get grid-locked - I've been stuck in jams near there too - but it does seem that a disproportionate amount of cash is funnelled to projects in the south of the country.

Never mind "gold plated", for PS1bn, I would expect the road to have diamond-studded cats' eyes and ermine embankments.

Five years ago, a planned PS71m scheme to transform the A494 from Queensferry to Ewloe into a seven-lane superhighway was ditched by the Welsh Assembly Government.

An inquiry found the size of the project was bigger than we needed.

That was 15 years after the Welsh Office made compulsory purchase orders on a host of properties on the route to enable them to be bulldozed.

There were plenty of objections to the size of the road, but also an acceptance that a solution to the traffic congestion must be found.

Then, a year ago, there was once again talk of major road improvements in north east Wales, not to mention better rail links.

Since then, the only mention of the A494 I find in our files is in accident reports - each of them causing chaos for commuters.

Now, the Silk Commission has given the Welsh Government permission to borrow PS130m a year - with a cap of PS1.3bn.

Just last week we were hopeful this would mean that a third bridge over the Menai Strait and improvements to the A55 could be on the cards.

But if my maths serves me right, if the M4 relief road goes ahead, this won't leave much cash for the rest of Wales - by that I mean most of Wales.

Railway lines in South Wales are well on the way to electrification, but up here... well, we're still chugging along on diesels along lines built for Victorian trippers coming to take the sea air.

We may not house Wales' capital city, but we are the main route to Ireland - in fact the A55 forms part of the E22 Euro route.

The E22, which is 5,320km long, goes via Leeds and Scunthorpe to the port of Immingham then it continues through the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Latvia, and Russia to western Siberia.

I'm not familiar with most of this route, but I wouldn't think it has many roundabouts like the ones at Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechan.

Then there's the headland at Penmaenbach - a bottleneck that has to cope with a huge amount of HGV traffic.

We don't need our roads and rail services gold plated up here, but we're sick of being treated like an impoverished relative who's expected to fawn in gratitude at a few stale crumbs from the rich man's table.

Never mind "gold plated", for PS1bn, I would expect the road to have diamond-studded cats' eyes and ermine embankments.
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 8, 2013
Words:514
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