TRANSPORT ministers have set back the cause of A1 dualling after the Commons was told there is no plan for any additional funding.
In 2010, the Conservatives promised to make the route a road of national strategic importance.
But despite delivering on this promise, MPs were yesterday told it still remains an unfunded road with little chance of seeing any cash for dualling.
Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said there were few hopes of doing more than changing the road’s classification when asked for an update on the route by Newcastle East MP Nick Brown.
“The department has no current plans to dual the A1 north of Newcastle. In recognition of its importance for freight and other strategic traffic, the A1 north of Newcastle was designated as a route of strategic national importance in May 2010,” Mr Hammond said.
This, Labour MP Mr Brown said, appeared to be an odd situation.
He added: “How can the Government designate the route as of strategic national importance, but not continue to dual it north of Newcastle?”
In a blunt reply, Mr Hammond said: “As was made clear at the time, reclassification does not guarantee any extra funding, and any proposed upgrade would need to be subject to the usual decision-making process.”
Following the Commons exchange, Mr Brown, a former regional minister, told The Journal: “This is a hopeless answer. It’s pointless giving the A1 north of Newcastle a special designation if the Government are not going to spend any money on dualling the road.
“The most workable way forward would be to do a small bit at a time, sharing the cost between the national programme and monies specifically allocated to regional programmes.
“This is the approach I advocated when I was the regional minister for the North East, and it is still the one with the best chance of success.”
The Department for Transport also dismissed claims of a funding bias.
Figures compiled by think-tank IPPR North suggest the North East receives just £5 per head in major transport spending, compared with £2,700 in London.
When challenged on this by Easington’s Grahame Morris, Transport Secretary Norman Baker said: “It is not fair to talk about the disparity as the honourable gentleman describes it.
“He might be relying on the Institute for Public Policy Research North report, but that report is incomplete.
“For example, it did not take into account the December 2011 local majors announcement.
“Of the local major schemes announced in the 2011 autumn statement, 62% by value were in the North and Midlands and 35% were in the North alone, while 40% of projects in the 2010 spending review were in the North alone.
“It is a misrepresentation, therefore, to describe the investment as he has done. On the railway matters, I will ensure he receives a written reply.”