In July 2009, the M4 relief road scheme “was pronounced dead”, according to the Western Mail. The scheme was, according to the then Transport Minister, too expensive, partly as a result of the extra cost of protecting the population of twaite shad. It turns out, though, that it wasn’t dead but merely sleeping, waiting for another minister, ten years later, to pronounce its death for a second time, because it’s too expensive and would cause too much environmental damage.
The problem with the ‘too expensive’ line in 2009, and again this week, is that costs and benefits can change. Twice now, ministers – of two different parties – have overplayed the cost argument in order to avoid coming down firmly against the scheme on grounds of policy, especially environmental policy, which in both cases has been seen essentially as a secondary consideration. As a result, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the reports of its death have, once again, been exaggerated.