Written by Developing Consensus member Chris Dobson. 

Developing Consensus, the leading North East private/public sector opinion group is keen to comment on articles published regionally and nationally on January 4th, 2020 concerning the possibility of dualling the A1 north of Morpeth to the Scottish Border.

Stemming from an apparent call by Downing Street to contractors urging them to come up with a solution to the dual this highly dangerous road ‘in record time’, the prospect of finally getting a fully dualled road link on the east side of the Pennines to Scotland is welcomed.

There is more to this than merely drawing a line on a map. Apart from compulsory purchase orders, the route would require new bridges crossing several rivers including the Tweed at Berwick and a plethora of junctions to east and west of the new road. It will be costly and time-consuming.

Downing Street is the source of renewed interest in this long-overdue project is encouraging. Commenting on the proposal one national columnist, however, said the North East was “already smothered in motorways”. Untrue. We only have the A1M starting at Washington and two of the UK’s shortest motorways, the A167 (M), Newcastle’s Central Motorway and the A194 (M) near East Boldon.

Through its width of vision, DC calls for both better national policy and better regional policy for infrastructure improvements for rail, air, ports and roads. Above all dualling the A1 is essential. 

Perhaps the Northern Powerhouse ‘brand’ is damaging the North East’s demand for investment. Projects such as HS2 will boost the north say its supporters but the ‘north’ is not the North East, it’s the conurbation centred only on Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and places between.

For the North East, it is the East Coast Main Line that provides the essential rail link with London and Scotland. Road links to the south are in place, the only gap in the region’s promotional armoury is the quality of the A1 to the north.

With March 11 the date for the first Budget from our new government hints about public infrastructure and making spending across the regions fairer just maybe a hint of things to come.