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Political leaders and businesses back Transport for the East Midlands’ calls for A1 improvements in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire as conditions branded ‘unsafe’ and ‘not fit for purpose’

Poor road conditions, fatal accidents and congestion have led drivers and businesses to back calls for improvements on the ‘unsafe’ A1.

Drivers are avoiding one of the East Midlands’ most major roads and businesses are spending hundreds of pounds on vehicle maintenance due to its poor condition, according to a new survey of the A1 by Transport for the East Midlands (TfEM).

Congestion, poor road conditions and signage, junction safety and accidents were the major concerns of the 1,100 people and businesses surveyed around Newark, Retford, Worksop, Stamford and Grantham and has been branded as “mounting evidence that the A1 is not fit for purpose” in the region.

A collision on the A1 southbound near the A46 and A17 junction blocks both lanes on April 6, 2023.
A collision on the A1 southbound near the A46 and A17 junction blocks both lanes on April 6, 2023.

More than 60% of 1,000 drivers surveyed felt unsafe travelling on the A1, nearly half reported either being in an accident on the road themselves, or knew someone who had, and more than 70% said they have avoided travelling on it.

There have been 27 deaths on the A1 in the East Midlands between 2015 and 2020, Parliament has been told, and more than 200 incidents where it had to be closed — sometimes for hours on end.

All 100 businesses surveyed by TfEM have had to pay for maintenance or repairs due to the A1’s condition, with more than 60% saying they have paid between £300 to £1,000.

Nearly all reported changing the way they operate to accommodate the road’s condition, such as planning different routes, hiring drivers experienced in using the A1, and carrying out risk assessments.

Sir Peter Soulsby, chairman of TfEM and elected Mayor of Leicester, said: “This survey adds the voices of local people and businesses to the mounting evidence that the A1 is not fit for purpose in the East Midlands.

“In the past few years, there have been 27 fatal accidents on this stretch of the A1 — significantly higher than average for an A-road dual carriageway — and more than 200 road closures, some of which have lasted up to 10 hours. This is an appalling human cost and unacceptable.

“While the forthcoming National Highways safety work to improve the road’s lane markings and signage is very welcome, what we really need is a more strategic approach to enhancing the route to improve reliability and resilience and bring the A1 in the East Midlands up to a standard that reflects its national and regional economic role.”

While the road is the UK’s longest and is a significant freight artery, which plays a key role in the East Midlands economy, the 72-mile stretch that serves 1.9 million people between Stamford in Lincolnshire and Worksop and Retford in Nottinghamshire remains an unlit dual carriageway with no CCTV monitoring.

Some of the A1’s entry and exit lanes in the East Midlands are short and — unlike motorways — there are also crossing points where vehicles can drive directly across carriageways.

Several sections of the road have already been upgraded to A1M motorway standard through Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Yorkshire and parts of the North East, but despite up to 100,000 homes and employment growth planned along the A1 corridor in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, it has not been upgraded.

The follows research published by Midlands Connect earlier this month, which found that delays on this part of the A1 are costing the regional economy around £1.75m every year — equating to commuters losing around £1,400 every day and HGV drivers losing just under £514,000 a year.

Political leaders across the East Midlands are supporting TfEM’s call for action.

Paul Peacock, leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council, said: “Newark’s position on the A1 and A46 means it’s in a great economic position with links to the north, south, east and west and a safe and a reliable transport network is enormously important to our residents and local businesses.

“The council has been raising safety concerns regarding the A1 for some time, particularly with traffic queuing to get off the A1 onto the A46 and into Newark. Accidents on the A1 can quickly cause gridlock in Newark and there is a clear case for upgrading the safety infrastructure on the A1 and ensuring people feel safer and delays and congestion are better managed.

“If people are seeking alternatives to the A1 because they feel it’s unsafe, or businesses are spending lots on repair bills when they use it, that is a significant cause for concern.”

Ben Bradley MP, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, added: “The A1 is a hugely important artery for our whole region, and hasn’t really been fit for purpose for a long time. Investment in bringing this road up to motorway-levels of safety infrastructure would be most welcome, and the survey demonstrates the strength of local concerns.

“The quality and capacity limitations of the A1 could hold back our economy, too. Major investments such as the £20 billion STEP Fusion project — developing a world-first fusion power plant near the A1 at Retford and bringing in a huge amount of inward investment to the region — will not be able to deliver the maximum benefit to local people without these infrastructure improvements.

“Government’s commitment to investment here would be very beneficial.”

Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton, and chairman the A1 Group of MPs voiced her support, claiming the road was “failing us as a critical economic artery”.

She added: “It has also taken a heart-breaking toll on people’s lives and the concerns these surveys highlight about the road’s safety should set alarm bells ringing.

“This is an A road with sub-standard junctions and right turn movements, accident blackspots and a lack of resilience or alternative routes during closures. Critically, there is also a lack of safety technology, including CCTV and even SoS telephones, so those in danger are unable to get the help that they need.

“As a matter of urgency, we need to see a clear plan to address these concerns. Too many people have lost their lives on the A1, and the toll it is taking on businesses and communities is unacceptable. Its safety infrastructure must be raised to a higher standard.”

The campaign to improve the A1 in the East Midlands is also being supported by business and transport organisations nationally and regionally, including the Road Haulage Association, which represents thousands of businesses in the road transport industry and the East Midlands Chamber, which represents thousands of firms across the region.

Chris Hobson, director of policy and insight for the East Midlands Chamber, said: “Having a robust, dependable transport network is important for any business, but it’s critical to the East Midlands — a significant part of the region’s economy depends on the ability to move goods nationally and even internationally, and the below-par nature of the A1 is clearly impacting on the ability of our businesses to get the job done.

“We’ve said many times that government needs to raise the levels of infrastructure investment in the East Midlands, and these surveys clearly show that making the A1 safer and more reliable must be a priority.”

The importance of a resilient transport network in the East Midlands has also been highlighted in a new East Midlands All Party Parliamentary Group Report, which calls for greater certainty on the delivery of major infrastructure projects in the region, in the wake of the cancellation of HS2 to the East Midlands and the Government’s publication of Network North.

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