No plans were announced for the dualling of the A1 north of Morpeth in the Autumn Statement, but the Chancellor said it was ‘not off the cards’.
During last week’s statement from George Osborne, MP Sir Alan Beith said: “Businesses in the North East will welcome the announcements that the Chancellor has made on business taxes, and on removing bottlenecks on the A1 south of Newcastle, but will also be very concerned that he has not yet announced progress on dualling the single-carriageway sections between Morpeth and the Scottish Border, particularly as it is now over 20 years since the Chancellor’s own party promised to upgrade the northern stretches.”
The Chancellor responded to Sir Alan, saying that he has a strong case which was powerfully backed by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liberal Democrat MP Danny Alexander, and work was continuing with the Transport Secretary – dualling, he said, was ‘not off the cards’.
And the lack of any progress also brought responses from politicians at council level.
Coun Alan Thompson, the county council’s executive member for highways, said it ‘is disappointing that the upgrade of the A1 is to stop at Newcastle and will not continue through to Northumberland’.
Blaming the previous Labour Government for not recognising the strategic importance of the route, he added: “The economic argument for getting the A1 dualled in Northumberland is a powerful one and we must keep making it.”
But Labour group leader Grant Davey was critical of the county’s Lib-Dem administration, saying that it had no shovel-ready schemes to offer for funding. “The A1 is no nearer being dualled, and the proposed line of the improved A1 is being threatened by other developments,” he said.
Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland Conservatives, said: “The funding outlook for roads across the UK looks bleak due to the enormity of the economic challenge facing us. It is worth remembering that, each and every day, our country spends enough money on the interest of Labour’s debt to dual the A1 in its entirety.”