By Daniel Hunter

The £1 billion M4 relief road at Newport has moved a step closer after the Welsh Government awarded three construction contracts for the project.

Construction firms Costain, Vinci Construction and Taylor Woodrow have been awarded the contract by the Welsh Government.

The relief road could be quashed altogether, however. After the news, a High Court judge retired to consider his verdict on the matter.

Friends of the Earth Cymru are challenging the Welsh Government's proposed £1bn motorway through the Gwent levels.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said today: “The first stage of an early contractor involvement contract has been awarded to a joint venture of Costain, Vinci Construction and Taylor Woodrow with consultants Arup, Atkins and environmental sub-consultants RPS.

“This is for the scheme development and environmental surveys leading up to preparation and publication of the draft statutory orders and environmental statement and assisting with the anticipated public local inquiry into the M4 corridor around Newport.

“They will be working with Welsh Government and its technical advisors to progress the scheme to the publication of draft statutory orders and environmental statement in Spring 2016.

“Progression to the second stage of the early contractor involvement contract is dependent upon the successful completion of the statutory processes, agreement of the construction target cost and the availability of Welsh Government funding.”

The relief road is seen as a necessary and vital step to achieving the economic potential in Wales. The main road route into major Welsh cities, including Cardiff, the M4 around Newport is frequently marred by heavy traffic caused by rush hour congestion and accidents.

A number of proposals were considered to alleviate the strain on the M4 around Newport, including extending the current stretch of motorway to four lanes. But the Welsh Government settled on a relief road south of Newport, running through the Gwent levels.