Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has been urged to “get a move on” over plans to dual the A1 north of Newcastle, after it emerged a long-awaited review into whether to carry out the work scheme is not beginning until July.
Mr McLoughlin came under fire from Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith, MP for Berwick, who has generally been supportive of the Coalition.
He was also asked to explain the delay in beginning construction by Nick Brown, Labour MP for Newcastle East.
But the Transport Secretary insisted: “We are making progress.”
It follows the Government’s announcement that the final phase of a study to examine whether the long-awaited dualling should go ahead is more than a month away from starting.
Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced last June that he was launching a review into the case for dualling the remaining sections of single carriageway of the A1 between Newcastle and Scotland.
So far, the DfT has established a “stakeholder reference group” to take part in consultations.
It is currently in the process of identifying different options for improving transport links along the A1 route.
But the process of actually making a decision about whether or not to improve the road - described as “work to assess the affordability, value for money and deliverability” of proposals - begins at the end of July.
Challenging the Transport Secretary in the House of Commons, Sir Alan said: “Since the Chief Secretary to the Treasury made a firm commitment a year ago and the Transport Secretary has given the scheme his strong personal support, can he get a move on?
“At the moment, with all these studies, it feels a bit like being stuck in slow-moving traffic on the A1.”
And Mr Brown asked: “What accounts for the delay between the tentative announcement of yet another study and the setting up of the study?
“What is left to be studied of this much-studied question? Will the Transport Secretary confirm to the House that the study is but a prelude to the commencement of the actual work?”
Mr McLoughlin said: “The A1 north of Newcastle study is one of six studies to identify and fund solutions to a number of notorious and long-standing hot spots on the road network.
“The next working group takes place on 21 May to discuss the evidence review stage, after which the study will consider the potential investment options before making its recommendations later this year.”
He added: “I think we are making progress. This an important road and a lot of work has already gone on to widen the A1, as well as a lot of work that is being undertaken at present.
“We are now talking about the area north of Newcastle and it is important that when the works are being carried out, measures are put in place to deal with the environmental consequences and the objections that people might raise.”
Mr Brown has urged the Government to dual the road incrementally, doing part of the road each year.
The study is looking at the length of the A1 from its junction with the A19 to the north of Newcastle to where the road meets the Scottish Border, and it is set to be completed by the autumn.
The findings will be considered by a stakeholder group which includes Newcastle Council, Northumberland Council and business representatives.