Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary has cast doubt on plans to dual the A1 north of Newcastle.
Mary Creagh accused the Government of resurrecting the long-awaited road improvement scheme for political reasons, eight years after it was rejected.
Speaking to The Journal at Westminster, she said: “They suddenly realised ‘oh we need shovel-ready popular infrastructure projects, oh let’s have some roads’.”
She warned that Labour was carrying out a review of all spending and she could not commit to any specific projects.
The Department for Transport is currently carrying out a feasibility study into dualling the A1 between Newcastle and the Scottish border.
MPs hope the Chancellor, George Osborne, will confirm the work is going ahead when he makes his Autumn Statement on the Government’s plans for the economy, on December 3.
Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, dropped a heavy hint that the plan would be approved during his speech to the Lib Dem conference in September, when he insisted his party deserved the credit for “pushing for upgrades to the A1”, calling it “not a Conservative idea, a Liberal Democrat idea. But Ms Creagh highlighted an earlier study, in 2006, which concluded the A1 was not a funding priority.
Asked about Labour’s road building plans, she said: “Some of those road decisions - the one I know best is the Sheffield to Manchester route but there’s also the one north of Newcastle up to Hexham as well, the A1 - these were looked at in 2006, and rejected.”
She added: “Roads are important. They need to be planned alongside housing, and we need to be sure they are built in the right place.
“But I think it’s interesting that eight years after they were looked at and scrapped, they are resurrecting some of them again now.
“And I’m genuinely not sure how far they are going to get.”
A future government might not have enough money to maintain new roads, she said.
“[Shadow Chancellor] Ed Balls has made very clear we are going to be keeping spending - there will be no borrowing to fund day to day spending. There is an issue about roads, you can’t keep building them if you don’t have any budget to maintain them.
“So there is an issue about capital spending on roads and then maintenance spending on roads.”
Asked if this meant the A1 dualling scheme would not happen, she said: “What I am saying is we have to look at the capital spending and make sure we’re getting the best value for the taxpayer and that we’re building the roads where we need them.
“I’m not saying we’re not going to do it, what I’m saying is I want to get across it.”
Mrs Creagh added: “We have got a zero based review. We are looking at all areas of government spending. And I can’t say now what is going to come out of that zero-based review.
“I think you’ll see much closer to the election, February, March, manifesto launch, a very clear project around and a set of certainties around these issues.”
Danny Alexander announced in June last year 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 main study did not begin until July this year.
The North East Chamber of Commerce also backs the dualling plan.