So it’s true – politicians really are all the same! Your interview with George Osborne (Gazette, October 16) is like a replay of 1966 when Harold Wilson’s fragile government faced a crisis at the Hull North by-election.
Barbara Castle, the Transport Minister, saved the day by announcing the famous Humber ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ and got the local voters on board. Of course the country couldn’t afford it, but 15 years later, and only because of Britain’s North Sea oil bonanza, the bridge eventually appeared in 1981.
So here we go again, in the run-up to a general election in a constituency where Mr Osborne’s party is desperate to unseat the Lib-Dems, but unfortunately at a time when he is slashing public spending, with the deficit is still rising, the global economy in a critical condition and no North Sea oil on the economic horizon.
The Chancellor’s ‘austerity’ seems to have slipped his mind over this and is now offering to spend £500 million which he doesn’t have – £8,000 for every voter in the constituency – on the A1 which will actually have very little affect on the lives of the majority.
What the A1 needs is safety improvements right away, not the vague promise of something unaffordable in the distant future.
If the country were booming this would be a great idea. More realistically there is an excellent case for dualling the Morpeth-Felton section and doing something about the lethal bends at Mousen, but the fact remains that 70 per cent of the traffic between England and Scotland uses the M6.
Consult Google for a journey to Edinburgh from anywhere in England starting South or West of Alnwick and it will direct you to the M6, or some combination of the A696, A697 and A68.
The reason is simple; taking the A1 from Newcastle to Edinburgh is 10 per cent further than the A68 routes.
How many people want to go those 11 extra miles to reach Edinburgh?
Tourism in Northumberland is currently well distributed between three routes to the border. Has anyone calculated the damage that would be done to businesses, not only on the Redesdale and Wooler routes, but on the A1 itself where many of them will be bypassed as the tourists dash towards Scotland’s honeypots on a dual carriageway which, for safety reasons, will have very few exits?
It doesn’t make economic or any other sort of sense just to dual the A1 as far as the border; if it is done it needs the full £1billion project right to Dunbar, otherwise the problem is just moved north.
Mr Osborne suggests that the Scottish Parliament might dual the ‘eight miles’ of A1 from Dunbar to the Border. It is actually more like 25 miles.
More to the point, he seems unaware that Transport for Scotland is already committed to dualling the gaps in the A9 from Perth to Inverness by 2025 and the A96 from Inverness to Aberdeen by 2030, with no mention of the A1 in their plans at all.
Perhaps I am being unfair to Mr Osborne; maybe he and Nicola Sturgeon are secretly pencilling in the dualling of the whole A1 for 2035?
If that’s the case it’s good news, but should this really be considered a pivotal election issue 20 years in advance?
The people of north Northumberland surely have much more immediate and serious concerns. Our political candidates might do better if they actually started listening to ordinary voters to find out what their current concerns and priorities really are, instead of fixating on who deserves the credit for this headline-catching ‘jam tomorrow-maybe’ project.