Residents are being given a second chance to have their say on proposals for the A1 ahead of an announcement of the preferred route in the spring.
A series of public exhibitions are taking place across north Northumberland this month while the consultation period runs until December 23.
This follows a series of consultation events in May at which residents were given a first look at what was being proposed in terms of dualling the road from Morpeth to Felton and from Alnwick to Ellingham, and improvements to the north of Ellingham.
The commitment remains to begin construction in 2020, meaning the project, funding for which was announced by then Prime Minister David Cameron in December 2014, would be completed by 2023.
The bulk of the £290million allocated to Highways England for the total project will be spent on dualling the eight-mile stretch of the A1 from Morpeth to Felton.
There are three options on the table – orange, blue and green – which vary in cost from £197.3million to £207.8million and would all involve two to three years of construction.
The impact varies between the three, based on whether the proposal follows closely the existing route of the A1 or involves new sections of road.
For example, the orange option, which follows the existing route, has least impact on the landscape and takes the least land, compared to blue, which in turn has less of an impact than green.
However, the green option has the least impact on residents and road users during construction as more of the work takes place away from the current route.
Orange: This involves widening the existing A1. Four new junctions will be built – at Highlaws, for Hebron; between Fenrother and Tritlington; at Earsdon junction; and at Westmoor, south of the Coquet.
Blue: This option mainly involves widening the existing A1, except for two bypass sections of entirely new dual carriageway, one section to the east of the A1 around Causey Park Bridge and a second to the west between Helm and Felmoor Park. The same four new junctions would be built.
Green: The A1 would be widened on the existing road up to Priests Bridge. From here, the new A1 would move west of the current road, rejoining the existing A1 just north of Burgham Park. There would be three new junctions – at Highlaws, Fenrother and Westmoor.
One option remains for Alnwick to Ellingham
For the final section of dual carriageway to link Alnwick and Ellingham, two options have already been discounted.
As with the much longer Felton to Morpeth section, an orange, green and blue option were drawn up for this 5.3-mile stretch, but it has already been concluded that the blue and green options are not affordable within the total budget of £290million.
Therefore, the preferred route going forward would widen the A1 to dual carriageway along the existing route.
The current A1 would be widened to the east, constructing a second carriageway alongside the existing A1.
There would be one new junction, at South Charlton, connecting the A1, B6341 and B6347, and the construction timescale is 18 to 24 months.
The cost estimate of £89.6million means it is the only feasible option, but it also has the greatest impact on residents and road users during construction as all work will take place on the current route.
The discounted blue option included a new section of road to the west of the existing A1 around South and North Charlton, and a new junction at South Charlton, while the green route involved new sections of road near Rock and around South and North Charlton.
Overtaking lanes and better junctions
The A1 will not be dualled from Ellingham north to Berwick, but there is money to construct two overtaking sections and improve three key junctions.
Some of the most common concerns raised during the consultation earlier this year relate to this section of the route, the first being the safety of the Mousen Bends.
The consultation booklet from Highways England explains: ‘An improvement at Mousen Bends is not within the scope of the improvements announced by government in the Road Investment Strategy. However, we are considering how your feedback of safety concerns on this and other locations may inform future roads investment’.
Concerns were also raised about safety at the Belford junction and Highways England has reduced the length of the overtaking lane to reduce the risk of crossing at this location.
There are two overtaking lanes proposed for this stretch, however, with one to provide an additional lane northbound just north of Belford and the other an extra lane north and southbound at Fenwick.
The Belford stretch would be between the Cragmill junction and Low Middleton and would result in the minor road towards Middleton being closed off.
The Fenwick stretch would see 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, with an access road provided for properties located to the east of the existing A1.
The junction at Fenwick would be upgraded to provide a staggered junction.
In terms of other junction improvements, the B6525 junction will be realigned so that the Wooler road meets the A1 at a right angle.
At the Cheswick junction, a marked right-turn refuge will be provided and the carriageway realigned to allow northbound traffic to pass those waiting, while a new entry to Beal Services will be created to improve the flow of traffic at the Holy Island junction.
Construction on these schemes would likely start earlier than the dualling – in 2018.
When and where can you have your say?
The first events take place at the Northumberland Hall in Alnwick today, from noon to 7pm, and on Saturday, from 10am to 5pm.
The consultation roadshow moves on to The Maltings in Berwick next Wednesday (November 23), from 11am to 7pm. It will be at Morpeth Masonic Hall on Thursday, November 24, from 11am to 6pm.
It then moves on to Felton Village Hall on Friday, November 25, from 11am to 7pm, and Bell View in Belford on Saturday, November 26, from 10am to 5pm.
The public is welcome to attend any of the consultation events. Alternatively, visit www.highways.gov.uk/A1in Northumberland for more information.