The Motorway Archive Trust was established under a Declaration of Trust in 1999 and registered as a charity in January 2000. The trust developed from the suggestion of Sir Peter Baldwin, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Transport that an archive relating to the motorway achievement in the UK should be created by those involved in the work, in order to safeguard the records for present and future research. In Wales, a regional committee was formed to carry forward this work and the records from The Motorway Archive Wales were deposited at Glamorgan Archives. The trust was wound up on 31 December 2014 and ownership of the archive material was transferred to the Institution of Civil Engineers Wales.
Not only do the records provide a fascinating insight for transport and civil engineering enthusiasts, they also document Wales’ biggest motorway achievement; the making of the M4, the only motorway in Wales. Of the 123 miles of M4 motorway, 76 miles are in Wales and are the responsibility of the Welsh Government. The records cover the project from early schemes such as the Port Talbot Bypass in 1966 to the completion of the Second Severn Crossing in 1996.
The 1970’s were a busy period of construction on key motorway junctions in Glamorgan, with 1977 seeing the most completed roadworks during the entire making of the M4. Junctions 28-29 Tredegar to St Mellons, 32-35 Coryton to Pencoed, 37-39 Stormy Down to Groes, and 46-49 Llangyfelach to Pont Abraham (Pontarddulais Bypass) were all completed in this year; a total of 31 miles in eight months at a cost of £130 million. 115 structures were built, 12 million cubic metres of material was excavated and 10 million cubic metres used in embankments. In total well over 1 million trees were planted around the M4 roadway in Wales. In 1976, at the peak of motorway construction in Wales, monthly certificates totalled some £4 million in value, and employment at peak periods was almost 4,000.
However, construction did not come without its difficulties, especially in the case of the Stormy Down to Groes section between junctions 37-39. Ewart Wheeler, project manager of the scheme, had the unusual experience of giving evidence at the Public Inquiry in promoting the alignment on behalf of the Welsh Office, whilst at the same time objecting to certain aspects of the route on behalf of Glamorgan County Council. This scheme featured a substantial cutting in marl, and several rights of way crossed the planned route of the motorway, resulting in drastic changes to the landscape. Despite suggestions of alternative routes by the Port Talbot Deputy Engineer, in 1974 it was decided that the village of Groes had to be demolished to make way for Junction 39. Although all 21 families were rehomed in 1976, the historical octagonal Beulah Calvinistic Chapel was dismantled and rebuilt in Tollgate Park.
Glamorgan Archives has recently completed a project to catalogue the Motorway Archive (ref.: DMAW), funded by the Business Archives Council’s John Armstrong Award for Transport Archives. The catalogue is now available to search via Canfod at http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=DMAW&pos=1