HL Deb 02 June 1998 vol 590 cc185-7

3.1 p.m.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress is being made in planning the next phase or phases upgrading the A.1 to dual carriageway status (a) between Haddington and Dunbar, (b) between Dunbar and the dualling at the Border, and (c) between the Border and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, I am tempted to say that it is rather like having three Questions for the price of one, but I shall try to answer briefly.

The dualling schemes between Haddington and Dunbar, and indeed around Alnwick, are subject to the strategic review of trunk roads to be completed later this year. Between Dunbar and the Border two minor schemes were completed earlier this year; and the construction of a third is expected to start around September. Other improvements have been identified between the Border and Newcastle. Subject to the availability of funds, and completion of any statutory procedures, work could start on the Felton to Lanehead section next year.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Can I ask for an assurance that as a matter of priority, planning for the future dualling will go ahead so that when resources become available work on construction can start, both in the interests of reducing casualties on those sections of the road and of improving the economic competitiveness of the east of Scotland and north-east of England?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, the strategic review of the trunk road programme which was announced by the then Minister for Transport at the Scottish Office in June 1997 forms an important part of the Government's fundamental review of transport policy which was included in their manifesto.

The review examines the rationale behind new roads construction, weighing road improvements against other transport options, and taking into account the criteria of accessibility, safety, economy, environmental impact and integration. All those issues are being considered. It would be wrong and inappropriate to anticipate the result of that review by giving any specific assurance about any particular area.

Lord Steel of Aikwood

My Lords, is the Minister aware that it gives me particular pleasure to support the noble Lord in his Question since he was the Minister whom I used to ask the same Question in another place?

The dualling of the road from Edinburgh to Newcastle is of great importance. While considering the total transport needs of the area, will the noble Baroness bear in mind the increasing case for reopening the Waverley railway route from Edinburgh to Galashiels, not only in the interests of the economy north of the Border but of the environment and the city? There are now new substantial housing developments in Midlothian which make the project more viable.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, I am sure that that will indeed be taken into account in the overall review. The noble Lord may well be aware—if he is not, he will be interested to know—that a freight scheme is under development at present. The Scottish Office is in regular contact with the developers. Subject to parliamentary approval, it is anticipated that the developer will submit an application for financial assistance under the freight facilities grant scheme. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further in advance of parliamentary approval.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, is the Scottish Office still responsible for trunk roads north of the Border, and the Department of the Environment for trunk roads in England and financed respectively? If so, can the Minister give an assurance that improvement of the A.1 in Scotland is not being delayed because adjoining work south of Berwick is receiving less priority?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, the situation is as it has always been. Noble Lords opposite who have been in office in the Scottish Office will be well aware of the situation. The responsibilities and priorities remain the same. What was always in the hands of the Scottish Office Ministers remains in their hands.

As some noble Lords opposite will know, the A.1 Steering Group was formed in 1990. It comprises representatives of the Scottish Office, the then Department of Transport, the Highways Agency, local councils and police. It is still in existence and meets once a year. It is in constant and regular contact between meetings.