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Road Network

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th February 2006.

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Photo of Stephen Hepburn Stephen Hepburn Labour, Jarrow 2:30 pm, 28th February 2006

What improvements are planned to road links between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

Traffic to and from Scotland benefits from many of the improvements to the strategic road network.

Photo of Stephen Hepburn Stephen Hepburn Labour, Jarrow

In the past decade, one casualty a week on average has occurred on the A1 between Scotland and Newcastle. The road accidents and the road's effect on economic development cause considerable anxiety to residents on both sides of the border. When will my right hon. Friend, in his role as Secretary of State for Scotland, convince himself in his role as Secretary of State for Transport for the United Kingdom that the road needs dualling once and for all?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

We have many useful and productive discussions about those matters and we happily find ourselves in complete agreement.

My hon. Friend knows that, five or six years ago, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister commissioned a report on what was required for the A1 north of Newcastle and up to the border, on the basis of which I came to the view that there was neither an economic nor an operational case for dualling the road. It recommended improvements for safety and other reasons and work has continued on working up such schemes. I am surprised that the north-east region did not prioritise them in the recent exercise and I shall have to consider how to proceed in the light of that. Although there is no case at the moment for dualling the road all the way to the border, there is a case for making improvements, especially to deal with the safety points that my hon. Friend raised. I hope to say something further about that, probably in the late spring.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

When the Secretary of State next lobbies himself, perhaps he could raise the case of the M74 between Gretna and Carlisle. Will he then let us know the exact start date for that project and give us an assurance that there will be no further delays?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I hope that we shall be able to make an announcement about that fairly quickly, and that construction will start imminently. Both Secretaries of State will make an announcement at the appropriate time. I must point out that those improvements have been made possible only by the huge additional investment that we have promised, every single penny of which was opposed by Tory MPs, both north and south of the border.