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Boost to the North East economy as multi-million pound A1 upgrade opens to traffic

Costain and design partner Jacobs, on behalf of National Highways, have successfully completed a multi-million-pound upgrade of the A1 that will support the levelling up agenda by unlocking economic growth in the North East.

The A1 Scotswood to North Brunton improvement will boost accessibility to jobs and services, whilst also supporting new business and development opportunities and housing developments along the route.

Speaking at an opening ceremony Roads Minister Richard Holden said: “The A1 is a vital route for connecting people and businesses across the country and we’ve invested over £100 million into improving it here.

“Projects like this are key to unlocking growth across the regions of the UK, as well as making every day journeys easier for thousands of people. It was great to hear about the local benefits first-hand today.”

Malcolm Bell, Programme Director at Costain, said: “These critical projects are supporting the region’s economy by improving traffic flow, connecting businesses and communities. Our use of digital tools and innovative methods of construction to improve productivity and effectiveness as well as reduction of carbon emissions throughout the programme is enabling the timely delivery of safer, greener and more efficient roads.”

National Highways Chief Executive Nick Harris said: “National Highways’ Scotswood to North Brunton scheme is an excellent example of the human, economic and environmental benefits achievable through continued investment in A-roads.

“The scheme will provide economic benefits for business users and freight, with improved links between locations of economic importance. Upgrades delivered by the scheme will also play a vital role in supporting a safe, serviceable, integrated road network, helping traffic flow more freely and driving environmental sustainability.”

About the project

More than 1,900 people have worked on the Scotswood to North Brunton project, two thirds of whom were from the local area. At the height of construction there were more than 150 on workers on the site from more than 15 different contractors. More than 70 apprentices worked directly on the scheme.

The scheme took two and a half years and has seen an additional lane created in each direction between junctions 74 and 79, a distance of five miles. The upgrade has cost in the region of £110m.

Carbon emissions were reduced on the scheme by more than 8,000 tonnes of CO2. This was achieved through reusing materials wherever possible and using alternative construction methods such as:

• Reusing existing sign gantries.
• Reducing the use of sheet piling by finding alternative solutions to creating retaining walls or barriers.
• Using a Sustainable Urban Drainage System to avoid alternative water treatment.
• Substituting large diameter concrete drainage pipes with plastic.
• Reusing around 41,000 tonnes of excavated and demolition material elsewhere on the project and on other schemes.

Some 18,000 trees and shrubs have been planted along the scheme, and staff from National Highways, Costain, Jacobs and their sub-contractors dedicated 4,200 hours to volunteering on local community projects, including improvements to community spaces such as Whickham Thorns Activity Centre, helping schools learn about biodiversity through the building of bug hotels and planting spring-flowering bulbs at Bluebell Dene.

Further south, around Gateshead, Costain is making good progress on the A1 Birtley to Coal House improvement which is due to open to traffic in Spring 2025. The upgrade will enhance journey times and safety and boost the North East’s economy.