The dualling of the A1 throughout the whole of Northumberland could still happen, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has revealed on a visit to the Berwick constituency yesterday.
He acknowledged the disappointment many people in the north of the county felt when a £290 million scheme to fully dual the route between Morpeth and Ellingham was announced last year.
Mr McLoughlin was speaking at Berwick railway station yesterday prior to a tour of the constituency taking in Powburn where there have been concerns about the safety of the A697 and a visit to the Aln Valley railway line.
The minister said the creation of a roads investment strategy for the next five years meant the dualling of the remaining 25 miles of single carriageway as far as the Scottish border ‘could still happen’.
“We are making a start,” he said. “We’ve got a roads investment strategy, the first time a government has ever done a roads investment strategy which sets out plans for the next five years and the programmes we want to start in those five years.
“I well recognise the desire for even better infrastructure but it’s a matter of getting the balance right. We can’t get everything in one go but I think we should be looking at the longer term improvements of all our roads throughout the country.”
There will be some work on the stretch between Ellingham and Berwick, including improvements to junctions and overtaking lanes.
He said: “I think train services are incredibly important and we are seeing major investment on the east coast main line and you are going to get new IEP trains from 2018 that will lead to improvements of service and I hope more services. There is no doubt that the rail industry and passenger transport as far as getting people to and from Berwick is incredibly important.”
He also addressed the concerns of many local commuters who fork out over £4,000 a year for season tickets to Newcastle and £3,620 for Edinburgh.
“We have said that over the next five years we will freeze the cost of rail fares,” he said. “We have done it for the last two years and will do it for the next five years.
“I realise there is some pressure on commuters but one of the things I want to see develop with the rail industry is more smart season tickets so that if people don’t use them all the time they don’t have to pay the full amount for them and I think the developments in technology should enable that to happen. It’s something I very much want to see the train operators do.”