THE Transport Secretary has said the North East must make a stronger case if it wants to win A1 dualling cash.
Justine Greening told Hexham MP Guy Opperman a united bid for improving the road would be needed before Government cash can be spent, and that it must be careful to present a better case than in previous years.
Mr Opperman has been pushing the issue with the Transport Secretary in order ahead of a new round of national roads spending from 2015.
The Conservative MP asked the minister to offer clear support for the A1, a route the Conservatives have made a route of national strategic importance in order to stand a chance of receiving major investment.
In a letter to the Tory MP, Ms Greening said: “Before considering funding solutions for a proposal such as this, it would first be necessary to determine whether there is a strong business case for the proposals.
“To determine this requires detailed work, but as the main component of road schemes benefits is usually travel time savings, and given traffic volumes on this length of the network are generally low, earlier studies failed to make the case for full dualling.”
The minister also urged the MP to secure backing from the North East Chamber of Commerce, saying the group had previously not backed the road when it was part of a regional group helping set local transport priorities. Mr Opperman said the minister’s letter showed firms needed to come together and make a case for investment.
He said: “What I want to see is businesses stepping forward and setting out why from a business point of view the need for the dualling for the A1.
“We need to work with our Scottish counterparts to show that investment here will lead to jobs in the long term.” Last night policy director Ross Smith said the chamber was committed to backing the region’s infrastructure needs.
He said: “Government confirmation that it will consider the A1 in Northumberland for dualling is certainly a positive move and one that will be welcomed by businesses in the region.
“Creating a congestion-free transport corridor into Scotland can only be beneficial. An immediate measure which could help this at minimal cost would be to increase the speed limit on the road for HGVs. However, dualling the A1 in Northumberland is just one of a host of potential infrastructure projects that would have an enormous impact on helping the region deliver more economically.
“Easing congestion on the A1 Western Bypass, improving links between the A19 and A1, and upgrading the road networks around the airports and ports would also bring enormous benefit.”
People across the North East have been campaigning to get the A1 dualled along its entire route for more than a decade.
Campaigners say that the road should be upgraded in rural Northumberland to boost the local economy and to improve its safety record.