A1 road will be duelled but only when resources allow

THE A1's upgrading from a 'regional' to a 'strategic national road' by the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government has increased its chances of finally being a dual carriageway through Berwickshire and Northumberland.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 12:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 12:24 pm

However, with a price tag in the region of 400 million and the country's finances being in the mess that they are, it's unlikely that it will happen any time soon.

Co-founder of the A1 Action Group and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont welcomed the announcement by Conservative Transport Minister Philip Hammond last week of their plans to regrade the road.

When asked by Berwick MP, Sir Alan Beith "Is my right honourable friend going to treat the A1 as a national strategic road, rather than a regional road, and develop plans for full dualling of it when resources allow?" Mr Hammond simply responded "yes".

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But this positive response was tempered by a warning that transport projects as a whole would be constrained until the "black hole" of the nation's finances was sorted out.

John Lamont MSP said: "I am very pleased that the Government has recognised the importance of the A1 to the economy by making this pledge.

"The A1 is vital not only to the local economy in the south east of Scotland but also as one of the main arteries linking Scotland and England.

"Everyone knows that Labour's legacy of debt has resulted in a huge deficit which needs to be reduced. As a result, the Government cannot simply wave a magic wand and come up with the money for dualling the A1 overnight.

"However, this announcement signifies that the new Government is taking seriously the importance of the A1 and that its new classification will mean it is much higher up the pecking order when it comes to funding of future projects.

"This is a step forward for the campaign to dual the A1."

After receiving a positive response to his question about the A1 Sir Alan Beith said later: "It is clearly right that the A1 should be treated as a national strategic road and I have been pressing that. The Labour government refused to do this.

"The trouble is there is very little money in the national pot. At least the minister has agreed we should be planning a complete dualling when the resources are available."

During the election campaign the Conservatives gave a promise that the A1 would be made a route of national importance, and they have delivered on that promise which now makes its upgrading a national rather than a regional responsibility.

There are still long stretches of the A1 between Newcastle and Edinburgh that are single carriageway, mostly through north Northumberland and Berwickshire.

Despite the number of fatal and serious accidents on these stretches of the road a major traffic study in 2002 concluded that the volume of traffic using it did not justify upgrading it.

In March this year Berwickshire campaigners met up with Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers, to put forward their argument.

Reston Community Councillor Barrie Forrest, who attended the meeting, said at the time: "The community council has campaigned for years to have the A1 dualled.

"For too long, this section of the A1 has been ignored by the Government and I was pleased that Theresa Villiers was willing to come to Reston and listen to our concerns.

"In a rural community like ours, good transport links are a lifeline and dualling the A1 would be a real boost to the village and to Berwickshire.

"Improving access to Edinburgh and Newcastle in this way would allow more people to remain in the village, rather than having to move away to be closer to their work."

Responding to last week's announcement Mr Forrest said: "That's good news that it's going to be upgraded.

"I have always said that if Alan Beith had been standing for Labour all these years he has been in Parliament it would have been dualled.

"John Home Robertson stood for Labour in East Lothian and the A1 was dualled through East Lothian down to Dunbar.

"It makes an awful lot of difference if you have the man in the constituency in the Government rather than the opposition.

"There's more traffic now on the A1 than a few years ago.

"I have been campaigning to get the Reston junction upgraded and lighting erected but they won't do anything until a few people have been killed.

"I wish they would take on board the views of the local people who use the road."