Hexham MP Guy Opperman's A69 dualling campaign wins support from Cumbria

Hexham MP Guy Opperman's campaign to get the A69 dualled has won support from the far end of the route

Hexham MP Guy Opperman
Hexham MP Guy Opperman

A Northumberland MP’s calls for the dualling of the A69 have won support from a colleague at the far end of the route.

Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman’s campaign to have the road made into dual carriageway has now been backed by Carlisle Tory MP John Stevenson.

Mr Stevenson has suggested the duo and a third Cumbrian MP lobby the Department for Transport (DfT) about getting the road dualled.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Stevenson said: “I lend my honourable friend my support in making his suggestions and representations.

“Like the A66, the A69 is key for Carlisle, and my constituents would be delighted to see it dualled.

“In the short term, we would like to see improvements to it.

“I suggest that he, my honourable friend Rory Stewart (Tory MP for Penrith and the border) and I make representations to the department about improving and ultimately dualling the A69.”

Mr Opperman first called for a safety review of the Newcastle to Carlisle road, which is largely single carriageway to the west of Hexham, in April last year after a number of fatal crashes.

The following month, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin revealed the Highways Agency had already commissioned a safety review of the full length of the road, the results of which were said to be expected soon and a road safety action plan “near to completion”, the minister added.

In May, Mr Opperman wrote to McLoughlin to request a meeting to discuss the matter.

The following month, he met the minister and this month held a held a special debate in the Commons to raise the issue.

The MP said: “I have made the case to the transport minister, and to the House of Commons, that the single best way to improve safety of the A69 is to dual it.

“I am aware we struggle to meet the traffic numbers to require dualling of the road, but this is a discussion about safety as much as anything.

“The minister took those concerns on board and I think long term we will be able to make some progress, if not on full dualling the A69 at least safety improvements.

“I, and many local people out in the west, are concerned we increasingly see drivers treating the A69 as if it were a motorway, people driving too fast toward blind hills, overtaking on double white lines and tailgating slow moving vehicles.

“The fact is the A69 is actually quite a dangerous stretch of road in places.

“Fundamentally the A69 is the chief arterial route that connects east and west across the rural north. It is dualled between Newcastle and Hexham, but thereafter it is a notorious stretch of single-track road, with occasional dual passing points. It has seen too many accidents, and its limitations are holding back the growth of the economy in west Northumberland and Cumbria.

“As I said, I met the secretary of state for transport in the summer, I continue to make representations to the DfT and the Highways Agency.

“I accept that the present spending round is committed up to 2016, but I want to make the case that the upgrading of this crucial road should be in the frame for the investment programme post-2016, leading up to 2020.”

The transport secretary promised to consider the MP’s arguments and write to him formally once he has consulted with department officials.

The safety review has now been completed and the agency and department are considering its findings. The A69 will also be included in a strategic review of the road network.

A DfT spokesperson said: “There is absolutely no room for complacency which is why we routinely review the A69. The study has shown that it has a good accident record but we have to remain vigilant. “That is why the government is developing a smarter approach to future road investment, through the development of route strategies for our major roads which includes the A69.

“The strategies will be completed in 2015, and in the meantime we will continue to work closely with Mr Opperman on his concerns for the safety of the A69.”

According to figures released for 2011 there were 82 collisions on the A69, with 130 people injured, ten severely. Four people died as a result of crashes that year alone.

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