A RELIEF road around Newport would have made "absolutely no difference" for Ed Sheeran fans stuck in 13 miles of traffic jams on the M4 recently, Mark Drakeford has said.

The first minister, who decided to scrap plans in 2019 for a new stretch of motorway around the city, dismissed the claims the road would have helped cut congestion on three nights of gridlock last month.

Pop superstar Sheeran played the Principality Stadium on three consecutive nights, drawing tens of thousands of fans to Cardiff, but also bringing misery for many people caught up in long queues and delays as they headed into the capital.

Before the show on Friday, May 27, there were 13 miles of queues on the M4 westbound, from the Prince of Wales Bridge to the Brynglas Tunnels in Newport.

The National Wales: Traffic on the M4 between the Prince of Wales Bridge and Newport before and Ed Sheeran concert in Cardiff on May 27. Picture: Traffic WalesTraffic on the M4 between the Prince of Wales Bridge and Newport before and Ed Sheeran concert in Cardiff on May 27. Picture: Traffic Wales

In the Senedd, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said the capital had become a "destination city" for big events but was blighted by "traffic bottlenecks".

"The traffic and travel chaos that we saw over that weekend really cannot be allowed to continue when major events happen in this part of Wales," he added.

Mr Davies cited the recent traffic problems as evidence why a relief road should have been built.

"We also saw, over three nights, the gateway into south-east Wales and south-west Wales, the Brynglas tunnels do their usual trick of putting 'closed for business', because the traffic was piled up beyond the Severn bridge," he said.

The National Wales: File photo of the Brynglas Tunnels on the M4 in Newport.File photo of the Brynglas Tunnels on the M4 in Newport.

While he admitted the argument for and against a relief road "has passed us by now", the Tory leader claimed "traffic cannot be brought to a standstill when major events are on" and called on the Welsh Government to revise its transport strategy.

But Mr Drakeford poured cold water on the idea a relief road would have helped, had he made a different decision three years ago.

"Even if a decision had been made to go ahead with an M4 relief road, it would have made absolutely no difference at all over the last weekend, because it would, even from today, be another five years before such a road could be opened," the first minister said. "So, it's not a solution to the problem [Mr Davies] has identified."

Mr Drakeford instead pointed to rail investment as the answer to South East Wales' transport woes during big events.

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A UK Government-commissioned review by Sir Peter Hendy has backed and built upon the recommendations put forward by the Burns Commission - itself set up by Mr Drakeford after the relief road decision - to invest massively in the region's public transport and make rail the backbone of the travel network.

Central to these plans is the conversion of the freight rails on the South Wales Main Line to carry commercial trains - a move that could essentially double passenger service capacity between Cardiff, Newport and Bristol.

"Had that been available over last weekend, then I think it would have made a genuinely material difference," Mr Drakeford said.

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