Highways bosses have spoken of their optimism that major road building proposals to create dual carriageways to improve links between the east and west of the country will get underway within the next five years, decades after plans to improve the routes were first developed.
North Yorkshire County Council’s Transport, Economy and Environmental Scrutiny Committee heard the scheme to replace all the remaining sections of single carriageway on the A66 from the A1(M) junction at Scotch Corner to the M6 had been included in Project Speed, a government initiative to accelerate the completion of strategic roads.
Officers told councillors the scheme’s inclusion in Project Speed should see the final A66 scheme completed up to five years earlier than would otherwise have been possible.
It is expected government inspectors will hold an Examination in Public of the plans from October until March next year, and following that, subject to endorsement by the Secretary of State of Transport, construction is scheduled to start in Spring 2024.
Although the A64 has not been included in Project Speed, the meeting heard National Highways were undertaking feasibility work on the section between
the end of the A64 York bypass at Hopgrove Roundabout and the start of the dual carriageway section at Barton Hill, near to Castle Howard.
Councillors were told a Department for Transport update had confirmed that, subject to final approval, a public consultation exercise on the route options between Hopgrove and Barton Hill would be completed by September.
The meeting heard a lengthy consultation time would allow for feedback and responses to be received from some of the many summer visitors using the route as well as from residents and businesses.
As councillors representing many villages near the A64 which become rat-runs when the trunk road becomes congested called for more pressure to be exerted on the government, officers said they expected a preferred route to be confirmed by April next year.
Councillors heard the potential for the A64 scheme to be included in a list of major road building projects starting in 2025 was not guaranteed, but “a lot more positive than it was before”.
The meeting was told the authority was continuing to apply pressure to National Highways to progress the A64 scheme and that planned developments in the southern Ryedale and York area only strengthened the case for dualling the road.
When asked how confident officers were that work to dual the roads would be completed by 2027, the authority’s corporate director of business and environmental services, Karl Battersby said he had “substantial confidence that they are going to proceed”.
He said National Highways were putting a lot of resources into finalising details, particularly for the A64.
Mr Battersby said the conversations the authority’s officers were having with senior Department for Transport officials had led him to conclude the schemes would be undertaken “within a reasonable timescale by national government standards for major pieces of infrastructure”.
He added the authority was trying to develop “a pipeline of projects” for road improvements elsewhere so it could be ready when the government next announced the availability of potential funding.