PARTS of the A1 could remain single lane even after a long hoped-for upgrade of the key road, it emerged today (Thursday, April 23).
The department for transport (Dft) has promised a rapid-fire assessment of putting in a dual carriageway between Newcastle and Scotland, with a decision by the autumn.
But a “scope document”, published today, revealed the Dft is exploring two carriageways on an extra 10.5 miles of the route only.
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That would leave drivers facing the prospect of frustrating tailbacks on a further 25.5 miles of the A1 to Scotland, which would remain single carriageway.
The compromise is being considered despite a senior Treasury minister accusing the Scottish Nationalists of sabotaging any upgrade north of the border.
Only last month, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary Danny Alexander criticised Alex Salmond for refusing to help fund a study into a dual carriageway all the way to Edinburgh.
Mr Alexander said: “If the Scottish Government don’t play ball, we can’t do the north of the border bit by ourselves, because they are responsible for roads.”
However, the Dft document states that the “starting point” for its own feasibility study are proposals put forward by Labour, back in 2002, but never taken forward.
They were to dual only an eight section between Morpeth and Felton and a further 2.5 mile stretch between Adderstone and Belford – just 10.5 of the 37 miles of remaining single carriageway.
Back in 2002, experts pointed to low traffic flows and concluded there was no “adequate justification, on economic grounds, to dual the whole of the remaining A1 north of Newcastle”.
The new Dft document states an intention to “draw upon a range of completed or recent related work in terms of studies or strategies for the A1 north of Newcastle”.
And it adds: “The study will include consideration of the proposals to dual the A1 between Morpeth and Felton and proposals to dual the A1 between Adderstone and Belford.”
Eyebrows were also raised over the long gap – ten months – since the feasibility study was announced and the appearance of an initial “scope document”.
The ambitious timetable is to publish a “range of infrastructure proposals” by July and reach a firm conclusion by the autumn.
However, a Dft spokesman dismissed any concerns, saying: “This Government is committed to getting on with the job in tackling the most notorious roads, including the A1 north of Newcastle, quickly and efficiently, with solutions provided by Autumn Statement 2014.”
A ‘Dual the A1 Campaign’ has demanded urgent action, pointing to surveys of business leaders that have criticised the single lane A1 as “a key barrier to growth”.
And ministers are keen to oblige, pointing to the A1 as an example of Labour’s neglect of its heartland region during the party’s 13 years in power.