Bypassed is an exploration of the lasting effects of the M4 motorway on the physical and psychological landscape of Port Talbot, Wales. Hailed as a major engineering achievement upon its opening in 1966, Wales' first motorway required the demolition of large swaths of the town, and displaced hundreds from their homes and businesses. While considered a sign of progress, the shortsightedness of its design features and placement through the town has begun to show through the following decades. The motorway's expansion coincided with a decline in the steel industry, slowly emptying out the nearby Port Talbot Steelworks, which had once been at the center of the town's success. Today, the uncertain future for the steelworks weighs heavily on residents, while the motorway serves as a constant reminder that their town has become a place not worth stopping for.
John Sparks has lived on Llewellyn street since childhood, when it was a set of two rows of terraced houses and a closely knit community. During construction of the motorway, the houses across the street were demolished, with residents given only a months notice. John’s family remained, having to contend with the noise and dirt long after demolition ended. John said he never saw many of his former neighbors again as they were moved to another part of town or left Port Talbot altogether.
The M4 motorway passes near a house on King Street in Port Talbot, Wales. Before the M4 was built motorists had to drive directly through the town centre, which resulted in large traffic jams.
A car dealership in Port Talbot, on the site of the old Sinclair Garages. Businesses that were not demolished to make way for the motorway have had to adapt to it’s often looming presence.
The concrete pillars used in some sections of the motorway were considered cutting edge technology at the time of its construction in the 1960s. Since then, the areas beneath have been taken back by both nature and residents. This section is a popular cycling and horse riding path.
Tommie Ross, one of the general foreman who worked on the eastern end of the M4 motorway. He remains haunted by having to destroy the 19th century village of Groes, just outside Port Talbot, to make way for a section of the motorway. This was a casualty that could have easily been avoided had the road only been slightly moved.
Pont Street, Port Talbot. Over 200 homes, 3 churches and several schools were destroyed to build the M4 bypass in Port Talbot. Those previously living in quiet terraces were faced with living directly against the new motorway, dealing with noise and pollution
Interior facing the M4 motorway in Port Talbot. Noise and pollution levels were high when the motorway first opened in the 1960s, with tires and rubbish regularly coming down into resident’s yards. Since then, changes have been made to isolate noise and many residents have installed dual pane glass windows in their houses.
Josh Reed spent the first few years of his life living with his family on Llewellyn street. The forest of motorway support pillars were a playground for him and his friends. Before the motorway this would have been near the site of one of 3 churches that were demolished.
View under the M4 motorway crossing through Port Talbot, Wales.
A clothes line attached to the reinforcement wall of the M4 motorway, in the back yard of a house in Port Talbot, Wales.
A couple walks their dog under a section of the M4 Motorway near the town centre of Port Talbot, Wales.
Inkerman Row, the site of a former barracks near Taibach, Port Talbot, Wales.
James Clark was part of the skateboard and punk scene in the 1970s, and remembers when the underside of the motorway was a popular hangout and concert venue for other punks.
This section of the motorway was built over a stretch of railway line that used to transport materials from nearby mines and steel refineries to the port of Port Talbot.
Anthony Ross has grown up in Port Talbot and is active with the YMCA, climbing and kayaking groups in the town. Despite this he says that many young people are eager to leave the working class industrial town and don’t see opportunities there. He described the presence of the motorway and commuters driving between Swansea and Cardiff, as a constant reminder that Port Talbot isn’t worth stopping for.
The end of a row of houses, bisected by the M4 motorway near the centre of Port Talbot, Wales.
Llewellyn Street, Port Talbot. Half of the street was demolished during the construction of the M4 motorway in the 1960s and residents were relocated to new council estates on the other side of town.