Burns Report offers sustainable solutions to M4 congestion

Neil Aldridge

Following our long-running #NoNewM4 campaign to save the Gwent Levels, Gwent Wildlife Trust welcomes the findings of the Burns Report.

The report was commissioned by the Welsh Government to look at the sustainable transport alternatives required to reduce congestion on the M4, following First Minister Mark Drakeford’s decision to scrap plans for a new motorway over the Levels in June 2019.

Gwent Wildlife Trust says the Commission’s recommendations are very good news for people, wildlife and the environment.

Gwent Wildlife Trust welcomes the integrated sustainable transport proposals outlined in the Burns Report that provides real alternatives to car travel and eliminating congestion on the M4. If implemented, it has the potential to create many wider benefits for public health and the environment through improved air quality and the promotion of active travel, as well as finally closing the door on the hugely damaging new M4 proposals that would have ploughed 14 miles of motorway across the nationally important Gwent Levels landscape. Never before have so many of us valued these precious places and the wildlife that can be found there, and they must no longer be destroyed by unfounded solutions to traffic congestion.
Gemma Bodé, Head of Conservation
Gwent Wildlife Trust

Welsh Government

Key highlights of the Burns Report

The Commission’s work shows we can eliminate most of the congestion on the M4 if we can reduce traffic flow by just 20%. It sets out how this will be done via a ‘Network of Alternatives’ for South East Wales and below are some of their key recommendations:

  • Create a new South East Wales ‘rail backbone’ by significantly increasing the capacity and flexibility of the South Wales Main Line
  • Transform access to the rail network by increasing the number of stations between Cardiff and the River Severn from three to nine
  • Create new rapid bus and commuter cycle corridors across Cardiff and Newport, connecting to the rail backbone and Cardiff Council’s public transport proposals
  • Establish a ‘hub and spoke’ network of bus and cycle corridors within Newport city
  • Integrate ticketing across all services, organised through a cross-city zonal fare system
  • Flexible office hubs in major towns, cities and urban centres to support remote working
  • Ensure public transport fares are affordable for all, particularly for bus travel within cities
  • Prioritise the investment and delivery of the rail backbone given its keystone role
  • Plan new developments around the public transport network rather than the motorway
  • Encourage Welsh Government to continue to call in planning applications which are inconsistent with sustainable transport

Next steps

The Burns Report is a well thought out and practical strategy to create sustainable transport and land use planning. It has been estimated that to complete all the recommendations would take 10 years but it is feasible to deliver the vast majority of the walking, cycling, and rapid bus recommendations within 5 years to see ‘quick wins’ for both people and wildlife. 

We now await the Welsh Government's next moves to begin implementation of the Burns report recommendations. We urge that any plans ensure biodiversity loss to the Gwent Levels is minimised, through sensitive design on this nationally important landscape, with many rare habitats and species pushed to the brink of collapse due to previous hugely damaging developments.