CAMPAIGNERS fighting to upgrade the A1 north of Morpeth have welcomed news that it has been re-classified as a key national route.
And the next stage in trying to get the road fully dualled has already begun as an action group has written to Roads Minister Mike Penning to get the latest position on the evidence that will be required for the works to take place.
Transport Minister Norman Baker recently announced that the A1 north of Newcastle to the Scottish Border has been made a route of strategic national importance.
The change of designation, from a regionally important one, means that instead of upgrades being funded from regional transport allocations, money will now come from the national pot — although the Government has stressed there is no guarantee that money will be found to upgrade the route.
A case for dualling may now be made on the basis of regional economic benefits as a result of the reclassification.
So Director of the A1 Action Group Anne-Marie Trevelyan has written to Mr Penning asking him to clarify the business-related criteria for justifying dualling.
She said: “The dualling of the A1 has previously been dismissed on the single premise that there is not enough traffic to justify the expenditure.
“Now that the A1 is recognised as a key national route, the Government will hear evidence on the economic benefits of upgrading the road to a dual carriageway.
“Our local campaign will now gather this evidence and submit it to the Department of Transport.”
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith was pleased with the news, but said that the change of status must be backed by action on dangerous sections of the road.
He said: “I welcome this recognition of the need for strengthening the infrastructure of the North East and for connecting us more effectively to other parts of the UK.
“In the current financial situation, we simply do not have the millions of pounds needed to dual the remaining single carriageway parts of the A1 now, but there are dangerous stretches which should be prioritised.
“A significant amount of money has already been spent drawing up plans for the bends at Mousen just south of Belford to be upgraded, along with plans for the Morpeth to Felton stretch.”
He added: “Action on the most dangerous parts of the road would be a very clear signal that the strategic importance of the road is recognised, as well as making the road safer.”
The reclassification has also been welcomed by Northumberland County Council.
Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services, Highways and Transportation Alan Thompson said: “We have been campaigning long and hard for action on the A1 so naturally we welcome this recognition of its importance at a national level.
“For the North East to prosper we need an economic highway between Teesside and Scotland so we can make best use of the ports that are available.
“Improvements to the A1 can make a huge contribution to our economic prosperity.
“We will continue to work hard with our partners to make a case for improvements to the road.”