[Excerpt from a Friends of the Earth Cymru report]
We've been here before - wondering why the Welsh Government hasn't done something that appears manifestly sensible - a low-cost intervention that would considerably reduce traffic through the Brynglas tunnels.
This time, a series of Freedom of Information requests by Friends of the Earth Cymru revealed that not one fine has been issued to people driving cars in excess of the legal maximum speed limit on the M4 around Newport. Over the six years 2010 to 2015 inclusive, a grand total of 16,062 speeding offences was registered by South Wales Police* on the stretch of the M4 around Newport that is subject to average speed cameras.
The Welsh Government now claims that the speed cameras have been in place "to gain a better understanding of how effective the variable speed limits were at improving safety and traffic flows before and after installation" during what is described as an "initial scoping period".
I've written to the Welsh Government asking for their assessment of the effectiveness of the cameras.
It raises the intriguing question: if thousands upon thousands of people flouted the speed limits, what sort of useful information will be gained from the scoping period?
And a scoping period of six years for a set of speed cameras seems a surprising length of time when put alongside the length of time building a new M4 will take. Construction of a £2 billion, 15-mile motorway will take just four years, according to the Welsh Government.
Could it be that, as with the proposal to reduce peak hour traffic through the Brynglas tunnels by 5% at zero cost, the Welsh Government doesn't want to ease congestion on the M4? Could it be that the Welsh Government is desperately trying to shore up its threadbare rationale for razing beautiful greenfield Gwent Levels through failing to make simple changes that would help traffic flow easier?
The Welsh Government is now allowing people a 'grace period' before it will issue fines. Because six years was never going to provide enough grace for some.
*South Wales Police is the relevant authority for the purposes of this Freedom of Information request