GOVERNMENT transport chiefs are looking again at dualling the A1 through Northumberland, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg revealed on a visit to the county yesterday.
Liberal Democrat leader Mr Clegg, speaking ahead of an engagement at Berwick, told The Journal that the Department for Transport (DfT) is reconsidering options for dualling the road between the town and Morpeth.
He said that department bosses should be in a position to report back in March and that ministers would decide the next steps from there.
Mr Clegg was speaking ahead of a public question-and-answer session in the town.
The A1 in Northumberland has witnessed regular accidents over the years, many of them fatal, and politicians from the North of the county have for years lobbied for the road to be fully dualled.
Plans for the dualling of some stretches have been drawn up by the Highways Agency in the past, sections between Morpeth and Felton and at Mousen Bends near Belford, but not progressed due to lack of funding.
The Government then announced in December that money was to be made available for dualling south of Newcastle but not in Northumberland.
Mr Clegg said: “The strength of feeling about the dualling of the A1 further north is very widely felt in the communities in this part of the world. I totally understand that, I have travelled the route myself.
“Because of the excellent efforts of Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem chief secretary to the treasury working with the DfT, we are getting the options looked at again.
“The DfT hopefully will make that available to everybody during the course of March and we will see where we can take it from there, but no one is under any doubt, I certainly am not, not least because of the outstanding campaigns run by (Berwick MP) Alan Beith and others that this is something which is right at the top of the agenda for people in the North East generally.”
Mr Clegg later told the session, in the town’s Guild Hall, he “did not come bearing implausible gifts or a magic wand” in relation to the dualling.
Members of the audience had stressed the need for the road to be dualled in full. Berwick resident Michael Stewart told Mr Clegg how a route once known as the Great North Road and the main link between England and Scotland resembled a “farm track”.
He said: “Perhaps you can remind the transport secretary it extends beyond Newcastle.”
Another man present added: “It is something very important to all of us.”