Dismay as A68 in England is demoted from trunk routes list

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UK Government officials have decided not to include the A68 south of Carter Bar in a list of important national routes.

Instead, the Department of Transport have chosen the A1 stretch from Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Seaton Burn, north of Newcastle, creating fears that the poorly maintained A68 route in Northumberland, which runs to Jedburgh and the central Borders, could deteriorate further.

The Westminister Government put together a 12-week consultation at the end of last year ahead of plans to revise the country’s strategic national corridors (SNCs).

Responses from members of the public, business and MPs mostly favoured using the A1 as the SNC into Scotland. But there was also dismay at the failure to include the A68 and A696 from Carter Bar to Tyneside, with the Borders section of the road treated as a trunk road by Bear Scotland.

One respondent wrote: “Just considering the A1 north of Seaton Burn is in our view short sighted as the A1 at Gateshead and Newcastle approaching Seaton Burn has frequent severe delays and is felt to be not fit for purpose in its present use.

“The A1 route is some 20 miles longer than the alternative A696/A68 route.”

Another respondent felt investment would be pulled away from the A68 by leaving it off the SNC list.

A Department of Transport spokesman said: “We do not believe that the inclusion of the A1 in the SNC would have any impact on investment on the A68.

“Investment decisions on both roads should be made on a case-by-case basis.”

He added that the A696/68, although providing shorter journey times, involves a “tortuous and less reliable” route and is not considered suitable for freight use.

“The A696/A68 is badly affected by winter weather conditions and is often blocked during snow events, making it a poor alternative to the A1 as a potential strategic route,” the spokesman said.

He went on: “Any increase in use of the A696/68 may raise suggestions about the need to by-pass local settlements along this route.

“The general view was that the A696/A68 is unsuitable for inclusion as strategic infrastructure, and we agree.

“We also believe that, given the localism agenda, we should keep the number of roads included in the SNCs to a minimum. We will not include the A696/A68 route.”

Jedburgh councillor Jim Brown, who has previously attempted to install signage on the A68 promoting the central Borders, is concerned about the Department of Transport’s ruling.

He warned: “In the winter we see Bear Scotland clear snow up to the border as a trunk road route, but once you get over the border it is hardly touched. It seems a nonsense and this decision will not help the situation.”