A new road from London to South Wales was first proposed in the 1930s. In 1956, the Ministry of Transport announced plans for the first major post-war road improvement projects.
The Chiswick flyover, a short section of elevated dual-carriageway, not originally classed as a motorway, opened in 1959 to reduce the impact of traffic travelling between central London and the west.
M4 bridge over the River Neath
original (A48(M)) bridge (right)
The Maidenhead bypass opened in 1961 whilst J1-J5 opened in 1965. The stretch from J18 to the west of Newport was opened in 1966, including the Severn Bridge (now part of the M48). The Port Talbot by-pass, also built in the 1960s and now part of the M4, was originally the A48(M) motorway, a number now allocated to a short section of motorway near Cardiff. The Ministry of Transport originally intended that the M4 would terminate at Tredegar Park west of Newport, and following the creation of the Welsh Office that the Government became committed to a high-standard dual carriageway to Carmarthenshire.
The English section of the motorway was completed on 22 December 1971 when the 50-mile (80 km) stretch between junctions 9 and 15 (Maidenhead and Swindon) was opened to traffic. The Welsh section was completed in 1993, when the Briton Ferry motorway bridge opened. The Second Severn Crossing opened in 1996, together with new link motorways on either side of the estuary to divert the M4 over the new crossing. The existing route over the Severn Bridge was redesignated the M48, and the new M49 was opened to connect the new crossing to the M5.