THE case for the dualling of the A69 trunk road west of Hexham has been given a major boost by the Government’s “Northern Powerhouse” agenda.

In a letter to Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman, Minister of State for Transport Andrew Jones said this week: “A new strategic corridor would support the economies of the North-East and Cumbria, improve journeys between England and Scotland, encourage the growth of the North-East ports and help the development of a Northern Powerhouse.”

Last year, Mr Opperman, along with Carlisle MP John Stevenson and MP for Penrith and the Borders Rory Stewart secured a feasibility study for the dualling of the A69, which links Carlisle to Newcastle.

The Government has now announced a strategic study which will look at road crossings between the North-East and North-West, the A69 and the A66 as well as examining the potential to create a new or improved strategic corridor in the region to link the A1 with the M6.

Mr Opperman said: “I am pleased to see the Government is getting on with examining the potential to develop better infrastructure between Carlisle and Newcastle.

“The initial feasibility study that we secured on the A69 in the last Parliament will form a key part of this. What I want is improvements to the A69 and development of this key corridor with better infrastructure.

“As well as improving safety, any improvements will help us grow our local economy by forming better links with the North-West through better roads and improved journey times.”

Mr Opperman has long been involved with the campaign to upgrade the A69 to dual carriageway status the whole way between Newcastle and Carlisle.

While much of Northumberland County Council‘s effort has been concentrated on dualling the A1, Mr Opperman believes there is perhaps an even stronger case for upgrading the A69, because of its links not only between east and west but also with the important Irish market via the port of Stranraer in Scotland.

He has been a vocal supporter of the case put by Haltwhistle Town Council, which has long argued that the town could die without the lifeline of a dualled A69.

Ward councillor Ian Hutchinson has said extending the existing dual carriageway beyond its present termination just west of Hexham would bring major economic benefits for Haltwhistle.

He said: “Businesses would consider coming here if the roads network was better and we would also get extra housing.

“I don’t think it will happen in our lifetime, but I’m sure it will one day.”

Chairman of Haltwhistle Town Council Coun. Alan Sharp said it was vital that better links were created between the A1 and the M6 via Carlisle, to promote trade in the west, rather than only down the A1 corridor.

He said: “The A69 was not considered important enough at one time to warrant dualling beyond Hexham, but that information is now flawed.

“The A69 west of Hexham is a very busy road, and the fact you cannot overtake leads to frustration and accidents. That means the road is closed, and the alternative route via the Military Road is not safe.

“We should push this as hard as we can.”

Last April, after a number of fatal crashes on the road, Mr Opperman called for a safety review of the A69 stating: “The best way to improve the safety of the A69 is to dual it.

“The important nature of the road, coupled with its single carriageway status is resulting in some very dangerous incidents. People driving too fast toward blind hills, overtaking on double white lines and tail-gating, are all real problems.

“Yes, we need people to drive safely, but fundamentally we need to address the issue of no safe overtaking opportunities for a 20 mile or so section of the road.”

Mr Opperman added there would be an “economic dividend” for West Tynedale if the carriageway was dualled, which could transform the economy of places like Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge.

He said: “Some of our towns and villages in the west would really benefit from the economic regeneration that dualling the A69 would bring.“