Future of Northumberland A1 dualling project thrown into doubt after General Election announced

Long delays on the A1 through Northumberland
-Credit: (Image: Mirror/Andy Commins)


Officials at the Department for Transport have remained tight-lipped about the impact of the General Election on whether an announcement will be made on dualling the A1 in Northumberland will be made as promised next month.

An announcement had been expected on June 5 after four previous delays. However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's announcement that the country will go to the polls has made this uncertain.

When asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service whether the election would impact on the June 5 deadline, the DfT declined to issue a statement.

Government ministers do remain in post after parliament is dissolved. However, current polling suggests that the Labour Party could sweep to victory - and senior party figures have been reluctant to commit to the £290 million project in recent weeks.

This has led to local politicians feeling pessimistic about the future of the project. Liberal Democrat councillor Isabel Hunter, who represents the Berwick West with Ord ward, did not feel the road would be dualled.

She said: "I'm disappointed. It is looking like it's going to be cancelled.

"We were hoping for a positive decision. Labour's lack of commitment worries me - I'm not bothered what party does it as long as it is done - for the safety aspect in particular.

"People say to me that it's just five minutes, but it is the safety aspect for me that is most important. On Thursday I was on the A1 and there were huge tailbacks because people were stuck behind a tractor.

"He is just doing his job. If the road were dualled, everyone could get on with their day - but without it, people take risks. I was doubtful we were going to get it before the announcement - now, I've got no hope."

Coun Georgina Hill, who represents the neighbouring Berwick East ward, was similarly concerned.

She said: "I think it is highly doubtful that it's going to happen. I thought the Tories were going to announce they were doing it knowing they were unlikely to be in Government.

"I think it is doubtful whether a Labour Government will do it. I think we will have the usual election campaign with people looking miserable by the A1 and the public are rightly sceptical.

"It's all a bit disappointing."

The current set of proposals would see a 13-mile stretch between Morpeth and Ellingham dualled, leaving only the more northern section to Berwick single carriageway - and, in theory, paving the way for the whole route to be dualled in the future.

However, the project has suffered a series of delays in getting off the ground, with the Tory Government pushing back the decision four times. In April, Roads Minister and Hexham MP Guy Opperman pledged to get the project "back on track".

Last week, Labour shadow minister Peter Kyle refused to fully commit to the project on a visit to Northumberland. The Hove MP said the A1 would be "one more thing to pick up" from the Conservatives if Labour got into power - but added that the decision would "have to be taken the other side of an election".

Similarly, newly announced North Northumberland Labour candidate David Smith said he would prefer to focus on road safety initially, admitting that the road would be dualled "in an ideal world".