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50 years since M4 Morriston by-pass was built to ease traffic

Looking west over the under-construction Ynysforgan roundabout and the M4's junction 45. Heading right is the road to Clydach, going left is the road to Swansea. Pic: West Glamorgan Archive Service

A whole generation of motorists has been spared a once familiar sight – nose-to-tail traffic queues as local and through traffic mixed on the old A48 Cardiff to Carmarthen trunk road which ran right through the heart of Morriston.

Credit: Swansea Council

Last month brought the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Morriston by-pass, a new road built to motorway standards and ultimately incorporated into the M4.

The then Swansea City Council worked with the UK Government’s Welsh Office and others to deliver the new road project in 1972.

September 1971: Parts of a new concrete bridge are put in place over the River Tawe. Pic: West Glamorgan Archive Service

Images – from the West Glamorgan Archive Service – offer a taste of what motoring was like on the A48 and how the new motorway section took shape.

The project – a 4.5-mile Morriston by-pass from Lon Las to Llangyfelach – was designed and supervised by a project team set up for the Welsh Office by engineers working on behalf of the former city council.

An early 1970s view of regular traffic congestion on the A48 at Morriston Cross. Work on a nearby new section of M4 brought relief to thousands of motorists. Pic: West Glamorgan Archive Service

Main contractor was John Laing Construction.

It included the excavation of rock and coal, the building of 14 bridges plus crossings over the River Tawe, Swansea Canal and mainline railway. It required the diversion of major national utility lines.

The essential link was formally opened on September 16 1972 by the then Welsh Secretary Peter Thomas. Some other stretches of Wales’ M4 had already been put in place.

The Morriston project, that also by-passed Llansamlet, was thought to be the first time a borough council had led a project to deliver part of the UK’s national motorway network

The build, including preparatory work, took nearly three years, cost around £4m and needed more than 200 new road signs.

Chief project engineer for the council was Henry Steane who still lives in Swansea.