A SENIOR county councillor is urging the government to put dualling the A1 at the top of its list of pending infrastructure projects.
Alan Thompson, Northumberland County Council’s executive member for highways, believes that improvements to the road would bring in billions of pounds’ worth of new investment.
Coun Thompson, of Newbiggin Central and East, has written to transport ministers and also raised the issue with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg during a visit to Newcastle last week.
He said: “I have been pushing the case for an economic highway linking the north east with Scotland for four years, and with the government looking for infrastructure projects to invest in, now is the time to finally get it done.
“The economic case for dualling the A1 is watertight.
“A road link between the north east and Scotland that is fit for purpose could unlock billions of pounds in trade and investment, and it would be a huge boost to tourism in the north east of England and eastern Scotland.
“Importantly for Northumberland, a better A1 would make travel across 100 miles of open countryside that much easier and faster.
“It would help to create economic opportunities in Northumberland and cut down journey times to opportunities further afield, meaning people would no longer feel they had to move away to get on in life.”
Transport minister Norman Baker MP announced the reclassification of the A1 as a route of strategic national importance last year, reversing a previous decision to remove it from the list.
Mr Clegg expressed sympathy for calls to dual the A1 but stopped short of making any commitment to give them his support.
Coun Thompson added: “A lot of people think that the north east, because of its poor road transport communications, is an economic cul-de-sac.
“Everyone acknowledges the importance of the east coast rail route, but the east coast road route is not acknowledged, except by important people in industry and commerce.
“I wanted Mr Clegg to be fully aware of the importance to the north east economy of investing in the A1 and having a road link with Scotland that is fit for purpose.”
Calls for investment in the A1 are being backed by a number of trade and industry bodies in the region, including the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Institution of Civil Engineers.