A1 UPGRADE: A short-term vote winner

The ‘A1 dualling’ agreements made by Cameron during his rare visit to the North East is being brazenly sold to us as the next best thing since sliced bread.

Yet at the same time the Government have disastrously sold off and privatised the East Coast Mainline, a key asset to many local people using this service, a service which will now become even more affordable in comparison to car driving.

So they giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

This dualling scheme is nothing but a short-term ‘let’s pour some concrete on the problem to fix it’ in the attempt to get some votes in the General Election in 2015.

Something that mainstream politicians are overly obsessed with at the moment.

While there are undeniable physical hazards on the A1, measures like crawler lanes could be an improvement. But most hazards arise from drivers, not the road. We need traffic calming, not traffic speeding.

Cameron and Trevelyan’s road-building policy equates to driving forward with one’s eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror.

Long-term trends such as climate change and the inevitable decline in the ready availability of cheap petrol are changing the future. Today’s fall in petrol prices will not last.

Major new road schemes are economically and environmentally foolish.

The Coalition Government’s re-announcement of plans to invest this £15billion on roads over the next five years locks in our unhealthy, carbon-intensive transport policy.

Contrasting that with the £2billion planned extra spending on the NHS makes one realise that this seems like a last ditch panic to save some Tory bacon and get those votes in. What do we care about more?

Fixing roads that we die upon or the NHS that saves our lives when we do fall due to bad luck or accidents?

These monetary figures are massively imbalanced and poorly calculated.

Road building normally encourages more traffic, worsens air pollution and causes severe loss and harm to our precious countryside.

Take, for example; the A1 Western Bypass around Gateshead and Newcastle, which was meant to reduce congestion but is now the third most congested road in the UK.

As new roads simply clog up, the economic arguments evaporate, especially when compared to the alternatives of better public transport, bus and rail - including for freight - as well as more local facilities and jobs to reduce the need to travel.

We need investment and development in our towns to create local work for local people. Work that lasts after building has stopped, jobs that are secure and sustainable.

We should look towards a car pooling system in Alnwick and surrounding towns, where people can ‘hire’ their own cars out if they are not using them to other people who are prepared to pay reduced insurance and wear and tear costs to cover the usage.

The possibility of introducing an electric shuttle bus service between Alnmouth Railway Station and Alnwick should be examined.

The possibility of reopening a railway station in Alnwick should also be explored, as this would be more efficient, and would create just as many, if not more, new jobs and opportunities.

Let’s push the need for public transport to be made cheaper for people - it should not be cheaper to get in a car as opposed to using public transport.

The massive sums allocated to this road scheme should go towards reversing the drastic cuts in rural bus services in Northumberland and indeed expand services. Let’s improve our bus services and ensure we use them. This does not mean giving up car ownership completely, but using public transport where we can.

Encouraging walking and cycling to work and school with redesign of our roads and public space to make it safer, not only increases health benefits but reduces congestion, pollution and traffic.

If the Government is serious about creating jobs and supporting a sustainable economy, they should be seizing the huge opportunities available from investing in new, less carbon-intensive transport technologies and looking to reduce our need to travel by car.

Nicola Day,

Alnwick Green Party