A1 reaction: Loved ones’ frustration

Alex Gibson

Alex Gibson

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Loved ones of fatal A1 crash victims have branded the decision to only partially dual the dangerous road in Northumberland as a kick in the teeth and disappointing.

Kelly Gair, from Amble, and Alex Gibson, of Berwick, have both been affected by tragic accidents on the notorious single-carriageway stretches.

Kelly Gair and son John with a photo of her late husband Alan.

Kelly Gair and son John with a photo of her late husband Alan.

Mother-of-five Kelly lost her husband, Alan, 37, in October 2008, after his car was hit by a Dutch lorry which was overtaking a slow-moving crane at Mousen Bends, near Belford.

Alex’s life was turned upside down when his 32-year-old son, also named Alex, was killed in a head-on collision just north of Alnwick in November 2011.

Since these fatal crashes, they have both called for the A1 to be dualled. Yesterday, they criticised the fact that the road will not be upgraded all the way to Berwick.

Kelly, who suffered serious injuries in the 2008 crash, said: “When I heard that the A1 would only be partially dualled, I was really disappointed, especially when I found out that the part that Alan was killed on wasn’t going to be dualled.

“This particular bit of road is horrendous. It is winding and bendy. All of the A1 needs to be dualled.”

The 37-year-old added: “Then you hear that money has been put aside to build a tunnel under Stonehenge and you think, what the hell! Let’s get our priorities right.”

Alex, who has been to Downing Street as part of his fight to upgrade the road, believes Monday’s announcement was bitter-sweet.

He said: “First of all, let me say that I do appreciate and welcome the response that they are going to dual the stretch from Morpeth to Felton and just north of the Alnwick bypass, where my son was killed. I think everybody will welcome this news.

“But, the point is, we have been missed out up in Berwick and we are getting left behind.

“It is disappointing, especially when you find out that they are going to spend money on a tunnel underneath Stonehenge.

“I really did believe that they would announce that the road would be dualled right up to Berwick.

“They are going to spend £15bn on road schemes and my argument is why couldn’t they spend £1bn of that completing this road. After all, people have been campaigning on this for decades and this road has taken so many lives.”

Alex, 66, has vowed to continue his fight, adding: “You have to keep plugging away.”

One of the people to back the dualling plans to the south of Ellingham is Emma Blackburn; the daughter of A1 crash victim Ian Thompson.

Her 52-year-old father, from Embleton, was killed in February 2009 in a head-on smash on the single carriageway, near Felton, by the bridge over the River Coquet.

Responding to the news that this stretch will be dualled, she wrote on our Facebook page: “It is about time and hopefully this will help save lives. It is a bit too late for my dad though.”

While campaigners will hope that the dualling of the A1 to Ellingham will improve safety and reduce casualties on that stretch, it may also have a knock-on effect on another major road in the county.

Those concerned about safety on the A697 – which has seen two fatalities and two lorries overturned in north Northumberland recently – have often pointed out that it is more dangerous because it is the only alternative route to the inadequate A1 for those heading up to Scotland.

Indeed, a fortnight ago, Lib Dem Julie Pörksen said: “Dualling the A1 so that we have a safe, reliable and quick route to Scotland could help relieve the through traffic on the A697 and help road safety on both roads.”

However, how much impact partial dualling to Ellingham will have remains to be seen.