ALMOST 200 crashes have been reported on the single-carriageway section of the A69 west of Hexham since the start of 2019, prompting renewed calls to dual the road.

Out of a total 191 crashes on the 32-mile stretch of road between Hexham and Carlisle, 44 were classed by police as serious, while six people lost their lives.

A serious crash on the A69 in May caused the death of a 62-year-old man, with another man rushed to hospital after sustaining serious injuries.

In comparison, the number of accidents on the two single-carriageway sections of the A1 in the county is 129 – 62 less than the A69. There were also fewer fatalities and fewer serious accidents – five and 32 respectively.

The data was obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service via Freedom of Information Requests to Northumbria Police and Cumbria Constabulary.

The A1 has two single-carriageway sections in Northumberland – an eight-mile stretch between Morpeth and Felton and the 29-mile route between Alnwick and Berwick, totalling 37 miles. The Government is currently considering proposals from National Highways to upgrade the eight miles between Morpeth and Felton as well as five miles between Alnwick and Ellingham.

The project would see a new dual-carriageway built, bypassing the existing A1 between Priests Bridge and Burgham Park, with the former single-carriageway section becoming a local road. A decision is expected from the Department for Transport in September, having already been delayed from December.

But plans to dual the A69 were mothballed in 2016, when the Government chose to dual the A66 between Penrith and Scotch Corner instead – specifically, a 15 mile section of the route. It was agreed that dualling the A69 would cut journey times by around double that of the A66 project, but it was deemed too expensive.

Councillor Ian Hutchinson, who represents Haltwhistle on Northumberland County Council, has long called for the road to be dualled. The Conservative councillor was not surprised by the figures.

He said: “It is still on the cards to be done, but I don’t think it will be in my lifetime. There’s just not the money to do it.

“It looked like it was going to be done, but they favoured the A66, which was total madness because it is closed in the winter and in high winds. The A69 is very rarely closed.

“The junctions on it at Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge are so bad, they’re badly designed. I’m fighting all the time for it. I’ve been saying it since before I was a councillor.”

Cllr Hutchinson felt dualling the road would benefit Haltwhistle, and hit out at Government spending in the area.

He added: “It would help the people of Haltwhistle enormously, but not just people in Haltwhistle that it would benefit – it is the whole of the North of England. It’s the main road between east and west.

“It’s annoying the amount of money spent per head down south compared to the amount of money spent up here. The north ends at Manchester, the North East is forgotten about.”

Another politician who has long-campaigned for the A69 to be dualled is Hexham MP Guy Opperman, who was first elected in 2010.

Mr Opperman said: “I am very concerned by the recent tragic death on the A69.  I want to convey my condolences and deepest sympathies to the families of those affected in this tragic accident.

“Upgrading, improving and ultimately dualling more of the A69 is vital to Tynedale’s economy, and will improve safety for the tens of thousands of cars who use the road every day.”

Responding to calls for the road to be dualled, National Highways spokesperson for the A69, Ben Dobson said: “Safety is National Highways’ number one priority and we take the safety performance of our network very seriously, with an ambition that no one should be harmed on our roads.

“We will always take on board feedback regarding our schemes and have met Councillor Hutchinson to discuss safety at junctions along the A69 single carriageway, as well as the potential for dualling the A69 in the future. We’ll continue to monitor safety on the A69 and work with local councillors, residents and partners to keep this route as safe as possible for everyone who uses it.”

National Highways also pointed out that work was carried out to improve the A69’s Bridge End roundabout at Hexham in 2021, although this is on the dual carriageway section. Plans to carry out similar work at the nearby Styford Roundabout at Corbridge were shelved due to local opposition, although National Highways say they could be revisited.

It was explained that those improvements were designed to complement a “long-term” aspiration to dual the A69. However, any decision to dual the entire stretch would need to be made by the Department for Transport.

The Department for Transport was also contacted for comment, but declined to provide one.