The A1 may have been upgraded to a route of national strategic importance by the UK Government earlier this year but with a price tag of £400 million that doesn’t mean that dualling of the road through Berwickshire and north Northumberland is likely to happen any time soon.
Improvements to the A1 between the England/Scotland border and Dunbar were not included in the Scottish Government’s recently announced £60 billion infrastructure plans, prompting Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont (Conservative) to question their commitment to invest in the infrastructure of the eastern Borders.
The £60 billion plans include all projects over £100 million, - improvement works planned for the A1 would come from a separate smaller budget.
John Lamont asked the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Alex Neil MSP, why the A1 and the other trunk roads in the Borders (the A68 and the A7) have not been identified for improvement between now and 2030.
John Lamont said: “I am deeply concerned that no investment was announced for any of the major roads in the Borders, despite the plans costing us £60 billion. That is why I asked Alex Neil why he felt roads in the Borders were not worthy of significant investment.
“He confirmed that there were no plans for any significant investment to improve any Borders roads in the coming years.
“It is now vital that the SNP look seriously into this matter. The A1, A68 and A7 are heavily used and could all benefit from further investment in them. Some of them in their current state provide hazards to drivers that have, in some cases, cost lives.
South of Scotland SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse, who lives at Ayton, said: “I accept that there’s an issue about safety concerns, certainly at junctions at Reston, Ayton (north and south) and Chirnside.
“I know Councillor Michael Cook, with the support of the local community, made a council submission prior to the Scottish Parliament elections on that issue and I supported that.
“The hope is that we can look at lighting for the Ayton junction and include other safety improvements for the A1 in smaller scale schemes from the £100 million transport budget. Yes ideally I would like to see the A1 dualled but with the best will in the world there’s a finite amount of money available. My priority for the A1 is dealing with the safety issues.”
A cross border campaign to have the whole A1 dualled has gathered pace in recent years but hope faded with the publication of a traffic survey last year which showed that the amount of traffic using the A1 road through much of Northumberland and Berwickshire was insufficient to justify the cost.
In March this year Berwickshire campaigners met Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers, Reston Community councillor, Barrie Forrest, telling her that the community council has campaigned for years to have the A1 dualled.
At the time he felt the meeting went well but his optimism was short lived, Mr Forrest admitting this week to being “deeply disappointed” by the Scottish Government’s omission of the A1 in its infrastructure plans.
“I am sorry to say this part of the world is left out and ignored by the Scottish Government. You have just to keep fighting on. It’s time Berwickshire had something, rather than it all going to the central belt, because the longer this goes on the further back we go.”