However, another project was also mentioned that would benefit from the new funding: the doubling of the A1 north of Newcastle. But in 2014, Chancellor George Osborne approved £290 million for the project, prompting Prime Minister David Cameron to stage a highly visible roadside photocall.
In March 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak re-signed the project, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to promise in June 2020: “When was the first time a government promised to double the A1 to Scotland? That was 1992. Well, this government will do it.”
And during the Conservative leadership battle at the Darlington Hippodrome, Mr Sunak vowed to see the project through, saying it was “something as chancellor that I have theoretically signed off on funding”.
So the funding has been in place for almost 10 years. Presenting it as new money due to the HS2 decision is incorrect. The big question is why the Conservatives have failed to turn the sod into action in the decade since the Treasury first made the money available.
Another project to benefit from the windfall was the Leamside line, which, as one document said in black and white, “closed in 1964, will also be reopened”. But within 24 hours that commitment was revoked and now Transport Minister and North West Durham MP Richard Holden says the government is “determined to look into it” – pretty much the policy it had before the windfall.
Mr Sunak has promised to do politics differently, but this appears to be the same old politics of smoke and mirrors. Let’s hope the Tees Valley gets its hands on all £978m before it evaporates in the same way George Osborne’s £290m for the A1 appears to have disappeared.
SEE THE FULL ECHO OPINION ON RISHI SUNAK’S SPEECH HERE
READ MORE: BEN HOUCHEN: Goodbye HS2, it’s a billion-pound boon for the Tees Valley
READ MORE: PLANS TO REOPEN THE LEAMSIDE LINE CALLED UP AFTER 24 HOURS