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Transport Connections: North-East England and Scotland

Volume 674: debated on Wednesday 25 March 2020

3. What steps the Government is taking to improve transport connections between the north-east of England and Scotland. (901665)

The UK Government are committed to ambitious infrastructure improvements across the United Kingdom, as highlighted in the recent Budget announcement to improve connectivity and level up all parts of the United Kingdom. I reassure my hon. Friend that I have regular engagement with the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity in the Scottish Government on this and other matters.

The A68 is the third major road link between the north of England and Scotland. It runs through many constituencies, including Darlington, Sedgefield, Bishop Auckland and Hexham, as well as Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk on the Scottish side, going up to Midlothian. Given the importance of the road link and the fact that Transport for the North has recommended that it joins the major roads network, will the Minister raise the issue of the A68 with his colleagues at the Department for Transport to help the north-east and the Scottish borders to thrive after the coronavirus outbreak has finished?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the question, because the A68 is an extremely important road in the United Kingdom, running from Darlington and connecting to the A720 in Edinburgh, and therefore it is vital in strengthening the links between England and Scotland. As he asked, I would be delighted to discuss with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and Transport Scotland how we can improve this critical network in the United Kingdom.

Cross-border connections are vital to both the north-east of England and Scotland. I know that the letter from the Chancellor to the aviation industry will have shocked and disappointed Newcastle airport just as much as it did Scottish airports, Scottish airlines and all the vital aviation support services in and around Scottish airports. What representations has the Scotland Office made to both the DFT and the Chancellor on the importance of support for this vital industry in Scotland?

Clearly, the airline industry and airports across Scotland are crucial hubs, and we need to continue to have them operating as much as possible during these troubling and exceptional times. The Secretary of State and I regularly attend Cobra meetings, which discuss a range of issues, along with the Secretary of State for Transport, so this has been raised as a UK-wide issue but with Scotland’s input at the heart of the discussions as well.