A1 dualling hopes in Northumberland boosted by National Highways report

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Highways chiefs say there is now a stronger case for pressing ahead with the proposed dualling of the A1 in Northumberland.

The Government recently said the proposed upgrade of a 13-mile section of the route between Morpeth and Ellingham would go ahead, as originally indicated in 2014 when £290m was earmarked for the project.

However, National Highways is still waiting for Transport Secretary Mark Harper to approve a development consent order that would allow construction work to begin.

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A decision has already been deferred four times since January 2022, with the current deadline now June 5, 2024.

The A1 near Burgham Park. Picture: GoogleThe A1 near Burgham Park. Picture: Google
The A1 near Burgham Park. Picture: Google

Ahead of that decision, the Secretary of State requested updates from key stakeholders on any changes to planning policies and carbon assessments given the length of time since the last consultation in October 2021.

National Highways, in its response, notes that changes to local policy ‘are considered to provide enhanced support for the proposed development’.

They explain that the Northumberland Local Plan, adopted in March 2022, continues the previous development plan support for dualling of the A1.

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‘With the adoption of the Northumberland Local Plan there is clear and enhanced policy support for dualling of the A1 which emphasises the central importance that upgrading of this strategic road infrastructure plays in delivering economic growth to this part of the country,’ states the National Highways report.

They also highlight the final report of the Union Connectivity Review – a detailed assessment of how transport connectivity across the UK can support economic growth and quality of life – published in November 2021.

The review notes that 15% of HGV road traffic between England and Scotland uses the A1 but speed limitations significantly impact reliability and capacity, while the non-continuous dual carriageway also causes safety issues.

It recommends that the UK Government work with the Scottish Government to develop an assessment of the East Coast road and rail transport corridor, including improvements on the East Coast Main Line and the A1.

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National Highways continues: ‘The UK Government has not published a response to the recommendations of the Union Connectivity Review and its recommendation for a multi-modal study for the East Coast corridor.

‘In the absence of such a response or such a study, National Highways has proceeded to progress the scheme through detailed design as far as practicable during this period.

‘A systematic analysis has already been undertaken of the A1 from Newcastle to the Scottish border to identify key issues and options for priority sections for improvement. The conclusions to this assessment are set out in the 2015 A1 North of Newcastle Feasibility Study Report.

‘The scheme objectives are to: improve journey times on this route of strategic national importance; improve network resilience and journey time reliability; improve safety; maintain access for local traffic whilst improving the conditions for strategic traffic; facilitate future economic growth.

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‘The critical importance which the proposed development would play in meeting these objectives is underlined by the support for dualling of the A1 which is given in national and now adopted development plan policy

‘Further delaying of the improvements which would be delivered by the proposed development would mean that the benefits of the scheme would not be realised to the detriment of this part of the UK.’