A Government study into the case for dualling the A1 is to report its findings by the end of 2015 at the latest, Ministers have pledged - with a promise that there is money in the budget to carry out the work.
Treasury Minister Lord Deighton, whose responsibilities include overseeing major infrastructure projects, could offer no guarantee that the scheme would be approved - although he said Ministers and officials accepted the need to deal with congestion on the road.
The long campaign to dual the A1 north of Newcastle won an important breakthrough in June when Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced a feasibility study into proposals to transform the road to Scotland into a dual carriageway.
If approved, the measure would be part of a £100bn infrastructure spending programme.
Quizzed by The Journal in Whitehall yesterday, Lord Deighton said a final decision on whether to carry out the work could be two years away.
He said: “We are conducting a feasibility study and that will lead to an analysis of the problem and a recommendation to solve it if we think it needs solving - but it’s hard to believe there won’t be some suggestion about how to solve it given everybody’s focus on the level of congestion.
“So that will then get turned into an investment proposal which we will look at.
“There’s plenty of capacity in the budget that we’ve set out for those projects that make sense that come out of the feasibility studies.”
The 2015 date to decide on the proposal raises the possibility of the decision being after the next election, adding a shadow of doubt if a new administration is elected.
Last night Anne-Marie Trevelyan, founder and co-ordinator of the A1 Action Group and Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Berwick at the next election, said: “We’re very pleased with the progress the Government has made so far towards understanding the importance of dualling the A1.
“But we are going to be pushing for this study to be completed within six months or so. We can’t sit on our hands for two years.”