A long-awaited review into dualling the A1 north of Newcastle is to begin in July – more than a year after it was first announced.
The long delay in coming to a decision was condemned by Tyneside MP Nick Brown, who said: “We need less talk, studying and hand-wringing – and more action.”
Business leaders and campaigners welcomed the announcement in June last year by Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the treasury, that he was launching a review into the case for dualling the remaining sections of single carriageway of the A1 between Newcastle and Scotland.
But the Department for Transport and Highways Agency has now published a timetable for the review, showing the main study will not begin until July this year.
So far, the DfT has established a “stakeholder reference group” to take part in consultations, including local authorities in the region, and has gathered evidence.
It is currently in the process of identifying different options for improving transport links along the A1 route, although the leading option – turning the existing 37 miles of single carriageway into dual carriageway – has already been the subject of years of debate. The final phase of the study, described as “work to assess the affordability, value for money and deliverability” of proposals to improve the road, is not to begin until the end of July.
Mr Brown, MP for Newcastle East, said: “This issue has been studied intensively and repeatedly.
“What we need to do is to get on with it. This is just an excuse for further delay.
“The correct thing to do would be to dual the road incrementally, doing a bit each year, as I proposed under the last Labour Government.”
The study is to look 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. It is set to be completed by the autumn.
Its findings will be considered by a stakeholder group which includes Newcastle City Council, Northumberland County Council, Tyne and Wear Integrated Passenger Transport Authority, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Natural England, the Dual the A1 Campaign, local Wildlife Trusts and Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith,
The DoT also confirmed that a review of proposals to relieve congestion on the A1 Western Bypass will follow the same timeable.