George Osborne has told ITV News that there will be no tolls on any new M4 relief road around Newport.
But on a visit to Cardiff, the Chancellor said he hope to give the go ahead to a scheme that would improve the road within a couple of months.
The Welsh Government has welcomed George Osborne's promise that an announcement on a scheme to improve the M4 at Newport will come in the next two months. But a spokesperson said there are 'important issues that remain to be resolved.'
We have been pressing for an agreed funding package for a strategic enhancement to the M4 for many months. It's very welcome that the Chancellor has expressed support in principle and said a decision will be made on the details shortly. However, no deal has been done yet and we will continue to work through the important issues that remain to be resolved.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, has ruled out using tolls to pay for a new stretch of the M4 motorway around Newport. He dismissed claims that the Treasury was considering such a move as 'misreports.'
He told our Political Editor Adrian Masters that he's 'never seen or considered a proposal to toll the M4.' But he said he hoped to give the go-ahead 'in a couple of months' to a scheme to improve it which has been the subject of talks with the Welsh Government.
George Osborne tells me he doesn’t know where reports of a toll road for a new M4 came from. No plans to use tolls.
George Osborne tells me Welsh Govt doesn’t want tolls for new M4 & he’s not planning it. First he heard of it was when he read it in press.
The Welsh Government has strongly denied reports that tolls could be levied on motorway traffic around Newport. One source has told ITV Cymru Wales that it is an unworkable idea.
Talks are well advanced about using toll income from the Severn Bridges to pay for M4 improvements, including a possible relief road for Newport.
The manager of a road hauliers in Llanelli has given a 'cautionary' welcome to news of a possible relief road around the M4 in Newport. It could be funded from the tolls on the Severn Bridges after the cost of building the Second Severn Crossing has been paid off.
Ian Jarman, Manager for Owens Road services, says that it would be a 'good investment in Wales' but that the charge 'needs to be small.'
He said that they already spend around £250,000 a year on the Severn Bridge tolls. He warned the UK and Welsh Governments not to 'tie them up in knots' with inflationary rises like they have seen with the Severn Bridge tolls.
Sources close to First Minister Carwyn Jones have flatly denied that the Welsh Government would agree to a toll on traffic using the M4 at Newport, either for using an improved existing motorway or a completely new relief road.
A toll road idea has not formed any part of the inter-governmental talks that have taken place between the Welsh and UK Governments.
The tolling of Welsh roads is entirely a matter for the Welsh Government and we have no plans to introduce tolls on any Welsh road. It’s an unworkable idea and given the Scots are not being forced to put tolls on their new Forth Bridge, it would be unfair for Wales to be expected to re-coup the money in this way, to fund road improvements here. Wales is not a second-class Scotland.
– Welsh Government source
As part of the ongoing inter-governmental talks, the future of toll income from the Severn Crossings after the current concession ends, is also being discussed.
It appears that the Welsh Government remains determined -and hopeful- about gaining the income from the Severn Bridge tolls once the construction costs of the Second Severn Crossing have been paid off in 2017 or 2018. That revenue could then be used to repay a loan that financed an M4 improvement.
For most motorists it would make little difference if the toll they paid at Magor was still for having just crossed the bridge rather than for using a new or improved motorway ahead of them. But tolls levied at the bridges are much less likely to encourage motorists to find an alternative route.
The Welsh Government have refused to comment on reports that the UK Government will soon announce plans to back a new M4 relief road around Newport.
In a statement they said that they "do not comment on speculation."
– Welsh Government spokesperson
We have been pressing the UK Government for access to borrowing powers in order to finance infrastructure investment. Those talks are continuing.
Meanwhile, we continue to consider the large volume of responses to our consultation on M4 corridor enhancements from Magor to Castleton.
The former Transport Minister has criticised plans to invest £830million to ease congestion on the M4 around Newport.
Ieuan Wyn Jones says that plans were abandoned in 2009 because he was advised that "not only was the new relief road to be subjected to tolls, so was the existing M4 to be tolled. "
The Plaid Cymru Assembly Member said it was based on evidence that had been gained during the operation of the M6 toll road.
He said he came to the conclusion that "it was simply unacceptable for motorists to have to pay tolls on the Severn bridges and on the existing M4 and new relief road."
"There was already significant complaints about the tolls on the Severn bridges and this additional burden on motorists and businesses could not possibly be justified. "
"That is why I accepted my officials’ advice not to proceed with the relief road but to ease congestion around Newport by linking into the southern distribution road as an alternative route.”