Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bypass Gridlock on Minister's Agenda; MP Holds out Hope for Movement on Transport

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bypass Gridlock on Minister's Agenda; MP Holds out Hope for Movement on Transport

Article excerpt

Byline: By Adrian Pearson

TRANSPORT minister Rosie Winter-ton has pledged to meet the Highways Agency to try to solve Tyneside's Western bypass gridlock.

North-East MPs spent yesterday with Ms Winterton making the case for urgent improvements on the region's rail and road networks and have promised to hold the minister to her word.

Asked what the future was for the Western bypass Ms Winterton told The Journal: "I want to meet with the Highways Agency to discuss that issue and see what progress has been made.

"There are many people who say this is an extremely high priority at the moment and has a relationship to local commuter traffic and what can be done to ease congestion."

David Clelland MP helped arrange the visit after campaigning in Parliament for an ultra high-speed maglev rail system and A1 improvements.

Mr Clelland said he had a "full and frank discussion with Rosie" and made sure she left last night knowing exactly what was expected of her.

He said: "I made sure she knew that we want to see a commitment from her department to maglev, but she seemed a bit less taken by that.

"She said the cost of maglev may be too high, but there has never been any actual costing of this.

"I think we will probably get some sort of high speed rail link between the North-East and London in the short to medium term, but my point is that we ought to look at the long term. We have to ask if they really think that by the end of the century we will still be using the same railway system?"

Ms Winterton agreed to hand over essential funding for Metro upgrades but did not commit the Government to tackling the North-East's wish list of transport improvements. During Mr Clelland's meeting with the minister he was equally forthright about the need to dual the A1 North of Newcastle and reduce congestion on the Western bypass.

He said: "Other regions have full motorway systems and improvements which are not dependent on any other issue, such as the need for road pricing or congestion charging.

"But when it comes to improving the A1 and our infrastructure it has to come with traffic management and road pricing and meet strict criteria.

"We continue to have strong concerns over the A1 and we made this clear. She is a new minister and we have taken this chance to make sure she knows in no uncertain terms what we expect of her."

Ms Winterton refused to be drawn on the possibility of upgrading the A1.

She said: "Obviously the ongoing issue of dualling north of Newcastle remains under review but there are criteria which need to be met and there are balances in terms of priorities."

Ms Winterton was in Newcastle to announce a Government contribution of pounds 12.8m to fund new Metro ticket machines.

The pounds 14.3m scheme will see barriers fitted at 13 Tyne and Wear stations. …

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