Government promises 'full funding' for A1 dualling in Northumberland amid confusion over Rishi Sunak's Network North

The Government insists it will fully fund key promises made to the North East after the scrapping of HS2’s northern leg, after suggestions from the Prime Minister that the pledges may only have been ‘illustrative’.
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Rishi Sunak’s £36bn Network North programme was the subject of much ire last week when a commitment to reopen the disused Leamside railway line was dropped within 24 hours of its announcement.

Comments from the PM and transport secretary Mark Harper suggesting that the long list of transport schemes contained merely examples of where money could be spent then cast further doubt over Network North’s other projects – including the dualling of the A1 in Northumberland.

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Gateshead Council leader and North East Joint Transport Committee chair Martin Gannon wrote to Mr Harper asking him to clear up the “confusion”.

Richard Holden MP, Minister for Local Roads and Transport. Photo: NCJ Media.Richard Holden MP, Minister for Local Roads and Transport. Photo: NCJ Media.
Richard Holden MP, Minister for Local Roads and Transport. Photo: NCJ Media.

He then 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.”

Roads and local transport minister Richard Holden has now defended the pledges and indicated that the dualling of the A1 from Morpeth to Ellingham and a Blyth Relief Road are firm commitments.

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Mr Holden, the Conservative MP for North West Durham, said: “Our Network North plan made clear from the start that we are providing full funding for the A1 dualling, Ferryhill Station and the Blyth Relief Road.

"We are also tripling the funding for both the mayor of Teesside and new mayor of the North East – which means that the latter will now receive £1.8bn over 5 years from 2027 – as well as extending the £2 bus fare from October 31st so that people get an immediate benefit.

“We are spending every penny of redirected HS2 funding on improving transport across the country, and the North East will benefit from revitalised roads and new stations to improve connections and grow the economy.”

The Network North web page states that the Blyth Relief Road, will have 100% of costs covered by the Government subject to business cases being approved.