GAZETTE COMMENT: Seven more years to go, but progress being made

The A1 public-awareness event at Morpeth Town Hall. Picture by Jane Coltman
The A1 public-awareness event at Morpeth Town Hall. Picture by Jane Coltman

Nine years is a long time to wait for the A1 to be dualled, but if it comes to fruition, it will end decades of waiting and broken promises.

The team behind the project to upgrade the trunk road in north Northumberland is aiming for all schemes to be completed by 2023.

Options for the Morpeth to Felton section.

Options for the Morpeth to Felton section.

Construction on the dualling is unlikely to start until 2020 and given that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced the £290million of funding in 2014, it will have taken almost a decade from start to finish.

Regardless of the duration though, at least there is a timetable, along with a significant amount of money pledged and a Highways England project team which wants to hear your views on the progress so far. Many have been waiting to get even this far since the early ’90s.

As we said in a similar piece back in December 2014, it’s true that there have been promises, pledges, commitments, guarantees, vows and assurances in the past, but we are now further forward than ever before.

Plus, no one ever said that it would be quick and easy; Mr Cameron’s hope in 2014 was for work to start in this Parliament – which ends in May 2020.

The options for the Alnwick to Ellingham section.

The options for the Alnwick to Ellingham section.

But because of this and a general distrust of politicians, there will always be those that doubt anything will get done.

There is nothing wrong with reserving the right to believe it will happen until you can see the men and machinery at work – nothing is guaranteed in this life – but if you are sceptical, why not go to one of the public-awareness events and see if you can be convinced?

Further drop-in sessions take place today in Morpeth Town Hall, from 1.30pm to 8pm; St James’ Church Centre in Alnwick on Monday, 11am to 8pm; and Berwick Town Hall on Tuesday, 10am to 7pm.

More about the options being investigated

The options for improvements north of Ellingham.

The options for improvements north of Ellingham.

Dualling: Morpeth to Felton

Orange – Upgrade the existing road to dual carriageway, either widening to the east or the west, depending on the local features.

Green – Build a new carriageway to the west of the existing road. This is similar to the preferred route announced in 2005.

Blue – Upgrade the majority of the existing road to dual carriageway, with approximately 1.2 miles (2 km) of new carriageway built to the east of the existing route near Earsdon.

Highways England anticipates that all of these options will include the construction of new junctions and the limiting of access on and off the A1 to left turns only at some locations.

Dualling: Alnwick to Ellingham

Orange – Upgrade the existing road to dual carriageway, either widening to the east or the west, depending on the local features.

Green – Upgrade approximately 1.2miles (2km) of the existing road to dual carriageway and build a new carriageway to the east of the existing road at Heckley Fence, before crossing over to the west of the existing road at Ellsnook Plantation and continuing until Shipperton Burn.

Blue – Upgrade the majority of the existing road to dual carriageway, with approximately 2.2miles (3.5km) section of new carriageway built to the west of the existing route between Elsnook Plantation and Shipperton Burn.

Highways England anticipates that all of these options will include the construction of a new junction and the limiting of access on and off the A1 to left turns only at some locations.

Improvements: North of Ellingham

Junctions

West Mains (Holy Island) (orange) – This improvement would address safety and the flow of traffic on the A1 by creating a new entry to Beal services. This will help to improve movement of traffic for road users accessing the services and those leaving Holy Island during busy times.

Wooler (red) – By improving the layout of the junction, this would improve safety and visibility for road users.

Cheswick (green) – This scheme would improve the layout and safety of the junction by providing a dedicated lane for northbound traffic on the A1 turning right. This will also address issues with vehicles slowing down behind vehicles turning right.

Overtaking lanes

Fenwick – This scheme would provide an additional lane northbound between Fenwick and Fisher’s Back Road and southbound between Fenwick and Fenwick Stead. The junction immediately to the north of Fisher’s Back Road will be closed off, with an access road provided for properties located to the east.

Belford – Providing an additional lane northbound between Cragmill junction and Low Middleton and southbound between Cragmill junction and the B1342. The minor road toward Middleton would be closed off.

Facilities for pedestrians and cyclists

As part of these proposals, Highways England will consider what improvements can be made to facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.