MOTORISTS face 12 months of uncertainty after a string of badly needed road improvements were left on ice yesterday.

The promoters of key schemes were told they must cut costs to get the roads built.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond put 22 schemes in a category he called a “development group” – eligible to bid for a £600m fund, to be shared out at the end of next year.

However, he said councils must “put pressure on everyone down the supply chain” and renegotiate contracts agreed several years ago.

The schemes include:

● The A684 Bedale, Aiskew and Leeming Bar bypass, in North Yorkshire;
● Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor – including a new bridge over the River Wear;
● A York park-and-ride scheme.

Referring to the £600m available, Mr Hammond said: “This will not be enough to fund all of the schemes proposed by local authorities.”

There was worse news for other local schemes, among 34 requiring further analysis before they reach the development group stage.

They include:

● The Sunderland Central Route project;
● Phase one of the Tyne and Wear bus routes improvement scheme.

Councils were told not to bother submitting further applications for new roads.

Mr Hammond gave the goahead to eight priority schemes that will share £300m, but work on them will not start until at least 2012.

None is in the North-East or North Yorkshire.

Maria Eagle, Labour’s transport spokeswoman, said it made no sense to announce congestionbusting schemes while planning huge rail fare hikes.

But Mr Hammond said: “Whilst we have had to make some tough choices, spending on transport was treated as a priority for the Government.”

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson urged Mr Hammond to end the uncertainty over whether the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) will escape the spending squeeze.

A decision on Hitachi’s £7.5bn plans to bring train-building back to the North-East was expected as part of last week’s spending review, but is still on hold.

In reply, the Transport Secretary said: “There are other major rail announcements which I hope to make an announcement about in the next few weeks, and the IEP is one of those.”