Confusion as Network North funding for projects in Northumberland after HS2 cancellation remains unconfirmed
and live on Freeview channel 276
The Network North programme has already sparked fury after a commitment to reopen the disused Leamside railway line was removed within 24 hours of it being announced, and there is now further uncertainty surrounding the remainder of the projects on the list including the Blyth Relief Road and the dualling of the A1.
On Monday, Sunak told BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show that last week’s announcements included “a range of illustrative projects that could be funded,” but that local leaders would ultimately decide what went ahead.
The proposals were announced in the Prime Minister's speech at last week’s Conservative Party Conference alongside the cancellation of HS2’s Birmingham to Manchester leg.
Over the weekend, transport secretary Mark Harper said that some apparent pledges had been “examples” of “the kinds of things” money could be spent on.
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon has written to Mr Harper on behalf of the North East Joint Transport Committee about the “confusion over the status and funding source” of the North East projects promised in Network North.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I have reached a stage where I do not believe a single word they say. It does not matter what they have announced, I would not believe it.
“This Network North plan announced last week… it was like someone in the Department for Transport just took out a map and some crayons.”
Glen Sanderson, Conservative leader of Northumberland County Council, confirmed that he had been given no firm assurances on the dualling of the A1 between Morpeth and Ellingham, saying he would like a confirmation “sooner rather than later.”
He added: “I have not had an assurance [about specific projects], but I am confident that this treasure chest that has been taken from one scheme and passed to the north.
“We have been lobbying for years and years and years, recently very persistently, for at least part of the A1 to be done and for help with the Blyth Relief Road.
"I would be surprised if we do not get that and if we do not see other road improvements taking place, not least some more money for potholes.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the Department for Transport to confirm details of its funding commitments to the North East projects within Network North. No response has yet been received.
Asked on Monday if the new transport policies he has suggested would not happen, the Prime Minister said: “No, that is completely not right. Do you know why it is going to happen? It is because actually that money is going to be given to local areas, so it is going to be them that are going to be able to make it happen.”
Asked why specific alternative projects were announced, Mr Sunak said: “We did not. Those were illustrative projects to give people a sense of things that people have asked for.”