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Simon Gibson to Chair Newport M4 Congestion Burns Report

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Simon Gibson CBE has been appointed as the Chair of the Burns Delivery Board, with Dr Lynn Sloman MBE his Vice Chair. Together they will oversee the progression of the 58 Burns recommendations by the unit set up in Transport for Wales, for which a budget of over £4 million has been approved.

First minister Mark Drakeford scrapped the long-awaited new stretch of motorway in June 2019 and proceeded to create a commission headed by Lord Terry Burns with developing recommendations for a series of alternatives for improving transport around Newport.

The M4 is Wales’ strategic gateway to the rest of the UK and Europe yet in the last two years, this stretch of road has been forced to close over 100 times. Pre covid, 100,000 vehicles travelled on the M4 around Newport every day — considerably more during events like concerts and rugby matches. The road does not meet modern motorway standards, and this leads to poor air quality, increased vehicle emissions and accidents. Constrained by the oldest motorway tunnels in the UK, this critical stretch of road serves two-thirds of the Welsh population and over two-thirds of Welsh GDP.

Deputy Minister for Transport Lee Waters said:

The Burns report sets out a plan for a modern public transport system for Newport, which will ease congestion around the M4 and improve services for residents of the city. We’ve said all along we don’t want this report to sit on a shelf, we want action. So we’re pleased that Simon Gibson has agreed to lead a Delivery Board of key partners to make sure that the ideas in the report get turned into reality.

Combined with the three projects that will share the £11 milion investment in new routes for cycling and walking announced last week – the Bettws and Malpas Canal Link, the Eastern Links and the Devon Place to Queensway Active Travel Bridge will make it easier for people to move around the city without needing a car.

We are also extending our on-demand fflecsi buses to cover the whole of the Newport City local bus network, showcasing Wales as a world-leader in demand responsive travel, offering a model for future bus delivery in other parts of Wales.

When combined with the news that the Ebbw Vale Line Frequency Enhancement scheme has been approved, which will enable a second train to run to Ebbw Vale and pave the way for four trains per hour, we can see movement in the right direction.

During last week’s launch of the Wales Transport Strategy, it was announced an additional £70 million is being made available to Blaenau Gwent County Council to secure the additional service between Newport and Ebbw Vale and contribute to the longer-term ambition of 4 trains per hour. The funding will enable the infrastructure improvements to be taken forward alongside Network Rail and Transport for Wales.

Simon Gibson CBE said:

Improving travel options is key for both residents, commuters and businesses in the region. These issues need to be resolved and actions taken to ensure effective patterns of travel in the aftermath of COVID-19 which will be quite different from the past. I’m excited to take up this position, working closely with the Welsh Government and all stakeholders.

Dr Lynn Sloman MBE said:

I worked with Lord Burns developing these ambitious recommendations for Newport, designed to make public transport and active travel in SE Wales as good as in Switzerland and the Netherlands. There’s a lot of work to do, and I’m very pleased to see it moving forward.