Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Ministry of Inaction Blocks Meeting on Road; Bid to Dampen Hope of A1 Being Dualled

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Ministry of Inaction Blocks Meeting on Road; Bid to Dampen Hope of A1 Being Dualled

Article excerpt

Byline: William Green

TRANSPORT Secretary Philip Hammond avoided meeting a campaigner fighting for the A1 to be fully dualled after an official warned it would raise expectations of something happening. Berwick Conservative Anne Marie Trevelyan requested a 20-minute meeting with the Secretary of State or Minister of State Theresa Villiers in May, soon after the Tories and Liberal Democrats agreed a coalition Government.

In an email sent to the two ministers on May 13, Mrs Trevelyan said she wanted to discuss how to take forward the campaign to upgrade the A1 all the way through Northumberland.

She also referred to a Conservative Party election pledge to reclassify the importance of the road.

Campaigners hope reclassifying the road from regional to national importance will open up access to more funding to fully dual the A1, which could cost more than pounds 400m.

But Fiona Wilson, head of strategic roads at the Department for Transport, cautioned against a meeting with Mrs Trevelyan in official advice to ministers, which The Journal has obtained using the Freedom of Information law.

Mrs Trevelyan's name is blanked out, but the document said: "A minister meeting XXXXX at this time may raise expectations on dualling the A1.

"There are clearly risks attached to raising expectations given the current financial climate and ongoing budget discussions.

"If you were to invite XXXXX to a meeting that would best fit with the role of Under Secretary Mike Penning MP." The official also suggested a meeting with Sir Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick, and another unidentified person.

"In declining to meet, you can say that you are looking at the basis for prioritising schemes, but avoid being drawn into discussions about what that may or may not mean specifically for the A1.

"Declining to meet also avoids potential complications with your Liberal Democrat coalition colleagues," the civil servant said. …

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