Chancellor George Osborne has revealed that upgrading the A1 to a dual carriageway road in Northumberland will be a “key priority” for the government in his autumn statement.
In an exclusive interview with the Berwick Advertiser at No 11 Downing Street, Mr Osborne said he has been persuaded by the compelling case to invest in a project which will strengthen the economic ties between Scotland and England and boost businesses operating in north Northumberland.
“Judge us by our actions,” he told the Advertiser as he received a petition from ‘Dual the A1’ campaigner and fellow Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
A final decision cannot be made until a feasibility study commissioned by the government is published in the coming weeks. That report is understood to be at the draft stage, but the Chancellor hopes to make the formal announcement during his autumn statement to the House of Commons on December 3.
“I came to Berwick myself,” said Mr Osborne. “I went to the A1 and talked to people about the road. I talked to local businesses.
“Here we are in the very heart of Downing Street having a discussion about the A1, which perhaps has never happened before under previous Chancellors. So I’ve taken a big personal interest in it and people can judge us by our actions.”
With a general election coming up in May, announcing a spending commitment on a universally popular project in the north east is clearly in the government’s interests.
As part of the coalition government, the Tories and Lib Dems will both attempt to take credit for a commitment to dual the A1.
But Conservative party strategists are determined to persuade voters that Ms Trevelyan’s ‘Dual the A1’ campaign has sealed the deal. She is the Tory candidate for the Berwick seat at the election in May.
“It’s a key priority,” said Mr Osborne. “I need to wait for the feasibility study. But Anne-Marie has made such a powerful case for this road, the benefits it would bring not just to the people of Berwick and Alnwick and other communities, but also the important link to Scotland and the north east economy.
“She has been relentless bringing this to the attention of myself and the Prime Minister. Without her we would not be having the discussion.”
FULL INTERVIEW INSIDE NEXT WEEK’S BERWICK ADVERTISER & BERWICKSHIRE NEWS