Government roads investment - when will it be the A64's turn?

A familiar site on the A64 - traffic queuing towards the coast. PIC: Andrew Higgins
A familiar site on the A64 - traffic queuing towards the coast. PIC: Andrew Higgins

For decades, firms, organisations and politicians have been campaigning for the dualling of stretches of the A64, to prevent the often-long queues to the coast.

During the Conservative leadership election in June, Boris Johnson made a promise to Yorkshire – he would dual the A64.

David Kerfoot MBE

David Kerfoot MBE

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Two weeks ago, as Prime Minister, he echoed those sentiments, saying: “The A64 is on my conscience and I remember making that pledge and I can assure people that I will do it.”

In August Highways England said it had completed a feasibility study on the Hopgrove to Barton Hill stretch which identified road layouts resulted in “queues and congestion which causes delays and accidents”.

But when Chancellor Sajid Javid announced £25 billion of funding for new road projects on Monday at the Conservative Party conference, it was the A66 that was mentioned - the Trans-Pennine expressway, which connects North Yorkshire and Cumbria, will be dualled between 2020 and 2025.

The launch of the #A64justdualit campaign in September 2018 fronted by David Kerfoot, centre of the front row.

The launch of the #A64justdualit campaign in September 2018 fronted by David Kerfoot, centre of the front row.

The absence of the A64 in Monday’s announcement was seen as a “snub” by several prominent campaigners who say the Government is showing a “complete lack of support” for the region.

The proposed A64 project would see large stretches between York and Malton become dual carriageway, with local road improvements needed between Malton and Scarborough.

The exclusion of the project from Monday’s announcement has been criticised by those who have been steadfastly campaigning for these road upgrades for years.

David Kerfoot MBE, chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), described it as a “big blow”.

From left: Robert Goodwill MP, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Kevin Hollinrake MP and Roads Minister Baroness Vere. PIC: Kevin Hollinrake

From left: Robert Goodwill MP, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Kevin Hollinrake MP and Roads Minister Baroness Vere. PIC: Kevin Hollinrake

Along with other business and civic leaders he helped launch the #A64justdualit campaign in September 2018 to show Government what the improvements would mean to residents and businesses.

“There’s only so many schemes they can do,” he said. “But I just cannot understand them not doing the A64 given how dangerous that road is and the importance of connecting and not leaving Scarborough isolated.”

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In April this year Highways England downgraded their assessment of the need and value for money of the Hopgrove to Barton Hill improvements from medium to low ranking due to the costs of the project being “much higher than originally expected”.

Mr Kerfoot said he thought that assessment had a lot to do with the slow progress.

He said: “It’s the most ludicrous way of calculating I’ve ever come across, it doesn’t properly take into account additional tourist numbers, and to not do that when looking at a coastal town is ridiculous.”

Mr Kerfoot said it was vital to keep up the pressure to ensure the A64 is included in future plans.

He said: “I’m going to be writing a letter to the PM to ask if he is going to be taking up that investment as he promised.”

Marcus Thrall, head of commercial development for Yorkshire in Business, thinks the investment is more than financial.

“That investment was greater than the money,” he said. “It would have been a sign that the Yorkshire Coast was open for business.

“We’re not just about tourism. Tourism is important but we have the potential to be a draw for large businesses.

“By not giving us the investment, by saying that Yorkshire Coast doesn’t matter, it’s saying to businesses don’t bother going there and we’re trying so hard to fight that mentality.”

Mr Thrall said when encouraging new businesses to the town, the road system was often seen as a barrier, particularly as coastal towns are already at a disadvantage due to only having a 180° view.

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In September, Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, and Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby – a former Transport Minister – met with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Roads Minister Baroness Vere to discuss the scheme.

The MPs this week explained that the funding announced on Monday was for Main Road Network projects, and the A64 was still being considered for the second Roads Investment Strategy (RIS 2).

Mr Hollinrake is hopeful the A64 will feature in the RIS 2, expected to be announced in November.

He said: “We’re not totally convinced it will be [announced in November] so we need to do everything we can to make sure that happens.

“We will make the business case with the help of A64 growth partnership, local authorities, LEP, businesses and everyone possible to make sure we make the case as compelling as possible.

“I think everyone in the region knows how important this is so it’s about making sure Highways England understand that as well.”

Mr Goodwill remained optimistic and that “you can’t read anything into [Monday’s announcement] either way.

“Kevin and I are continuing to keep up the pressure and the department are well aware of issues with the A64.”

“It’s absolutely vital that this investment is made.”

READ MORE: The decades-long saga of the campaign to improve the A64