A decision on whether an upgrade of the single-lane section of the major route between Morpeth and Ellingham had been due in January this year, before being pushed back to June and then again by a further six months.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced last month that a decision on widening the 13-mile stretch of the A1 was now due on or before December 5 this year, dashing hopes of work starting this summer.
The postponement came following the publication of Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review, which aired reservations about the scheme and called for a new “multimodal study” of road and other transport links between the North East and Scotland which “could result in much better outcomes than considering specific stretches of individual modes in isolation”.
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Council leaders were told on Tuesday afternoon that top transport officials in the North East were still pushing the benefits of the dualling to the Department for Transport (DfT) and National Highways.
Northumberland County Council’s deputy leader, Richard Wearmouth, called the latest setback “frustrating” and warned that many of the county’s rural residents have no realistic alternative mode of travel other than the A1.
The Conservative councillor told the North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC): “We want the process to be completed as swiftly as possible. There is not much chance of a modal shift if you live in rural Northumberland.
“Either you drive on the A1 or you don’t [drive]. You might be able to catch a bus or a train if you live close to those routes, but ultimately the A1 needs to be dualled.
“Myself and our leader Glen Sanderson have been in close contact with [Berwick MP] Anne-Marie Trevelyan, we have held discussions with the minister for transport and we are impressing upon them that we want a swift conclusion in favour of stepping through into contracts and getting on with the job.
“We very much hope that will come later this year.”
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon, who chairs the JTC, joked that he looked forward to getting stuck behind tractors and combine harvesters en route to a family caravan in Northumberland this summer.
He added that the current situation on the A1 is “absolutely ridiculous” and the dualling programme had the support of the entire North East.
When the second delay to the scheme’s development consent order was announced last month, National Highways insisted it was still confident in the plans.
It said: “The Secretary of State has asked for more time to consider our proposals for upgrading the A1 between Morpeth and Ellingham in Northumberland.
“We remain confident that our proposals will provide much needed additional capacity, with better connectivity for people and business, and safer journeys for everyone, and we remain committed to delivering these improvements upon receiving a positive decision on the DCO.”
The proposed development comprises the dualling of a nine-mile stretch between Morpeth and Felton and a four-mile section between Alnwick and Ellingham.