The government will reallocate cash across the country. Credit: DfT. Image has been cropped

‘Network North’ offers glimpse of transport cash for region

Several North East projects could see funding expedited after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak axed high speed rail to Manchester, promising instead that “every penny” of the estimated £36bn would go to projects across the country.

In pledging £19.8bn for the North, the government zeroed in primarily on the improved inter-city rail connectivity that has been one of the main issues raised by civic leaders as something that should be of at least equal importance to HS2.

However, a number of highways projects are also prominent in the list of projects that Sunak said will now find support, which could be to Northumberland’s benefit.

Funding was pledged to dual the A1 between Morpeth and Ellingham, while the Blyth relief road is among 21 smaller schemes to share a £460m funding pot.

For the Tees Valley, the reallocation of transport funding is a boost, with £978m possibly heading to the Combined Authority to put to work locally.

Mayor Ben Houchen said: “By scrapping HS2 the Prime Minister has freed up billions of pounds to be spent on real tangible projects up and down the country right now.” He added that the TVCA can now back projects in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool that were “simply unachievable” otherwise.

Other pledges made by the Prime Minister included the £2 bus fare scheme being continued, and cash allocated for smart ticketing in city regions across the North.

However, one of the projects talked-up and included in initial communications documents has seemingly already been rowed back on: the revival of mothballed Leamside line, which runs from Tyneside through Washington to County Durham, joining the East Coast mainline – the government has now said this will merely be reviewed.

In a further development, Sunak has rowed back yet further on commitments, telling the BBC that the list of projects announced had been “illustrative” of the type of tings that could happen.

A new station at Ferryhill is also among the proposed schemes that will be looked into.

Although cynicism has greeted the announcements, for parts of the country unlinked to HS2, the redistribution of cash presents opportunity, however long some of the projects have been in the pipeline.

Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “We very much welcome the announcements from the Prime Minister today and the fact he recognises the importance for our county and the wider region of having roads and infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

“While we look forward to finding more detail there are clear commitments to Northumberland.

“We have long campaigned for the A1 dualling and were very disappointed when the decision was pushed back last month. We have continued to push on the Minister’s door to get the best possible deal for the county and the region and today’s announcement gives us renewed hope this vital scheme will come forward shortly.

“The Blyth Relief Road will bring huge benefits for the town and wider connectivity to the raft of new developments taking place in the area. A lot of work is already taking place planning for this new road and this is a great boost.”

A1 dualling

The scheme will involve upgrading eight miles of the A1 to a dual carriageway between Morpeth and Felton, including construction of a new section bypassing the existing A1 between Priests Bridge and Burgham Park. The old section of the A1 carriageway will be de-trunked and become a local road.

Between Alnwick and Ellingham a further five miles of the existing A1 will be upgraded to dual carriageway. This will be done along the existing single carriageway road. As well as the dualling, the project includes:

  • Four new compact grade separated junctions at Highlaws, Fenrother, West Moor and Charlton Mires providing safe access onto and of the A1 as well as maintaining links to the local road network
  • A new bridge where the A1 cross over the River Coquet parallel to the existing bridge
  • A new accommodation bridge at Heckley Fence

In September, the Secretary of State had confirmed that the decision on whether to fund the project has been pushed back to June 2024.

Blyth relief road

This scheme involves the realignment and dualling of the existing A1061 Laverock Hall Road to provide a direct dual carriageway connection between the A192 Three Horseshoes Roundabout and the A193 South Beach, to relieve congestion and facilitate economic growth. A new complementary link is also proposed between Chase Farm Drive and Ogle Drive, also joining up with Tynedale Drive.

  • This story has been updated to include developing information on the Leamside line and other projects

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