The congested and dangerous route to Scarborough – dubbed “a rolling road block” by business leaders – may be in line for a much-needed upgrade following a new pledge by the Government.
Roads Minister Stephen Hammond told MPs that “given the (safety) record” of the A64 between York and the north-east coast, he is “convinced” it will succeed the next time Whitehall money for road improvements is up for grabs.
The state of parts of the A64 have long been a bone of contention for businesses and the wider tourism trade in the resort, as well as for motorists who use the road frequently and people living in the various towns and villages along its route.
The road includes long stretches of single carriageway, which become overloaded with traffic in the summer, as well as a number of dangerous junctions.
Speaking in the Commons, Thirsk, Malton and Filey’s Conservative MP Anne McIntosh told Ministers it was time to upgrade the “extremely congested and highly dangerous” road.
She demanded the A64 receive funding through the Government’s “pinch-point” scheme, designed to target key bottlenecks around the country which are holding back economic growth.
Peter Wilkinson, chairman of Scarborough Ambassadors forum, which champions businesses in the town, said: “It’s fabulous news for Scarborough. As the business park grows at Eastfield, we do need to have good vehicle access, not just for cars, but for trucks and business to business tourism.
“As we are a coastal town, we need a good infrastructure. We have got good train services now, but bottle necks on the road network. Traffic calming measures mean you can’t overtake anymore and combined with the Hopgrove roundabout and the single lane sections, it is a rolling road block. It is a barrier to Scarborough and the faster it happens, the better.
Mr Wilkinson added that the improvements would be even more vital if plans to build a potash mine between Scarborough and Whitby come into fruition.
Ministers have made a series of “pinch-point” funding announcements over the past 12 months, with money allocated to improving junctions such as the M1, M62 and M18 in Yorkshire.
Mr Hammond told MPs that talks were now under way about an extension to the scheme in the Government’s next spending round – which begins in April 2015 – and made clear the A64 is likely to be in line for significant works.
The A64 is a trunk road and so maintained by the Highways Agency rather than local councils. Local authority leaders along the east coast have long demanded it be improved to allow the local economy to expand.
Scarborough Council’s chief executive Jim Dillon said: “As the main route into Scarborough from the west of the country, used by businesses, residents and visitors, the borough’s economy is heavily reliant on the A64. We would therefore welcome any consideration the Government is able to give to improving it.”
After many months of delay, the Highways Agency recently began work on improving one of the road’s most dangerous junctions, at Barton Hill, near the turn-off for Castle Howard.
Campaigners have demanded improvements to the road for decades, and it has been highlighted by North Yorkshire coroner Michael Oakley as an accident black-spot following a series of fatal crashes.
The Highways Agency insists other crossroads along the route will also be eventually upgraded, but campaigners claim that a much larger works programme is needed.
County Cllr David Jeffels, chairman of the scrutiny committee for transport and economy, said: “Any in vestment in the A64 is to be welcomed. The campaign for improvements to this increasingly busy trunk road has gathered pace in recent years with the volume of year-round commercial and holiday traffic head to the Yorkshire Coast and Ryedale. Such spending by the government will be of considerable economic value to our area.”
Scarborough’s MP Robert Goodwill has written to the Government’s Roads Minister backing the pledge to upgrade the A64.
Mr Goodwill said the move would significantly reduce the number of road accidents, boost the town’s economy and unburden motorists.
He said: “Obviously if we had more dual carriageway that would certainly reduce accidents caused by frustrated motorists being tempted to overtake in dangerous places.
“It would reduce the number of bad experiences that tourists have going back to West Yorkshire on a busy Sunday evening or Bank Holiday Monday.
“In terms of business, we have companies like McCain who regularly use the road, so any improvements would be welcomed.”
Mr Goodwill said three areas he would most like to see addressed were the Rillington bypass, the Malton to Whitwell dual carriageway and the carriageway at the Hopgrove roundabout.