The £290million project to upgrade the A1 in Northumberland has moved to the next stage with today’s announcement of the preferred routes for the two sections to be dualled.
During a six-week consultation last year, three options were presented to residents and stakeholders for plans to widen the A1 between Morpeth and Felton, and one option for the stretch between Alnwick and Ellingham.
A total of 587 responses were received and the majority of people (41 per cent) preferred the green option for the Morpeth to Felton section and nearly half of respondents agreed with the orange option for the Alnwick to Ellingham section (49 per cent). Today, these options were unveiled as the ones Highways England is taking forward in its preferred route announcement (PRA) for the improvements.
The green option between Morpeth and Felton includes building a new carriageway to the west of the existing road between Priest’s Bridge and Burgham Park.
This option will improve safety along the route and will also have benefits during construction in terms of worker safety and efficiency. The existing A1 will act as a local road once the scheme has been completed.
The orange route between Alnwick and Ellingham involves upgrading the existing road to dual carriageway, widening either the east or west of the current road depending on the local features that need to be considered. This option also includes improvements at the South Charlton junction.
Highways England project manager, Nanette Hoyle, said: “We recognise the importance of this route and are delighted to announce the two options we are taking forward are the ones which the majority of people wanted in last year’s consultation.
“Over the last few months, we have worked hard to identify the best possible options by working through the feedback from the events, along with safety, economic and environmental analysis and we are excited to share our plans with local stakeholders, businesses and the community.
“Work now continues, adding detail to the design for each of the dualling options and on planning how we will deliver them in a way that keeps traffic moving.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for taking part. There will be further opportunities to have your say as the schemes develop.”
Further work to refine the ideas will now take place and a further consultation with more design details included will take place next year.
MP for Berwick, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who founded the Dual the A1 campaign group, said: “This is fantastic news – not only for those of us who have spent a decade working towards getting the A1 dualled – but for the people of north Northumberland.
“The Highways England team has worked hard to ensure local views were included in their route planning and residents can now see their input in this plan. £293million represents a huge investment for Northumberland and it is a proud moment for me to see the plan coming together and to show that this dualling is really happening.”
Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “This is fantastic news for Northumberland and will provide very significant strategic and economic benefits. Dualling will promote sustainable growth along the A1 corridor as well as improved connectivity with Edinburgh and the Lothians and with Tyne and Wear and other regions to the south.
“Existing businesses will have better access to markets for their goods and services, and to sources of labour, and the dualling will also encourage new businesses to become established – creating new jobs and economic growth. This announcement is a further confirmation of the Government delivering on its promises in Northumberland.”
Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services, added: “We have been campaigning for dualling of this key strategic route for more than two decades and this announcement of preferred routes is the next important step to securing major improvements.
“The green route for Morpeth to Felton was strongly favoured by the council and so I am very pleased that this will be going forward. It addresses our concerns that the other routes would have had more impact on the A697 during construction. The dualling is set to make significant improvements to road safety on the route, something I am also a very strong campaigner for, with the green route between Morpeth and Felton offering the best alignment for improving safety.
“We welcome the support of our MP who has worked so hard for this and look forward to working with Highways England as they progress this through the next steps.”
Construction work could start in 2019/2020 with completion being in 2023, meaning the project remains on track according to the timescales given at the outset. Major improvement works to the stretch north of Ellingham are set to start next year.