Business leaders have welcomed a multi-million-pound package of investment in one of North Yorkshire’s most notorious traffic blackspots which they claim is vital to ensure that the county’s economy is not undermined by congestion.
Senior councillors have approved a £32.4m plan to reduce rush-hour journeys by up to 20 per cent on York’s outer ring road, which often grinds to a halt during busy periods.
The city council’s executive has given the go-ahead to a five-year project, which will see seven roundabouts between Wetherby Road and Monks Cross upgraded to bring them up to the standard of those on A19 and A59.
Mark Goldstone, head of policy at the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Traffic delays caused by the notorious York outer ring road have long been a concern to businesses in the city and anything which will support an appropriate solution is to be welcomed.
“Many companies we speak to often cite access to markets and access to skilled workforce as key priorities when they are looking to grow; high-quality infrastructure is fundamental to both of these issues.”
It comes after politicians and business chiefs launched a joint campaign to turn stretches of the main route to the North Yorkshire coast into a dual carriageway.
Highways England has committed funding to improve the A64 from the Hopgrove roundabout, where it meets the York outer ring road, to Barton Hill – a distance of around six miles. But the nature of the improvements has yet to be finalised.
The proposed upgrade of the A64 to Scarborough follows a report by Highways England which concluded that only a dual carriageway, and not previously planned improvements, would relieve traffic problems beyond the roundabout to the east of York.
The A64 Growth Partnership, which has the backing of MPs, local companies and the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership, aims to secure a funding guarantee of £250m for the next stage of improvements.
Mr Goldstone added: “East-west connectivity remains poorly served across York and North Yorkshire, so plans to upgrade the outer ring road, along with recent proposed improvements to the A64, will make it easier for people to reach the jobs being created in the region.
“With central government’s ambition to raise UK productivity, improvements to journey times and efficient despatch of goods and services will all help.”
The work on York’s outer ring road will include creating more lanes and extra space on the approaches and exits to the roundabouts, as well as improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.
Where possible the road layouts will be designed to accommodate the potential future scheme to bring the outer ring road up to dual carriageway standard, according to York Council.
Coun Ian Gillies, executive member for transport and planning, said: “This is a really significant investment which will make journeys easier and quicker on the ring road, as well as preparing us for the ultimate goal of dualling.
“Any scheme of this size is going to be complicated but we’re determined to get on with it as soon as possible. We’ll consult with residents and businesses as soon as we have detailed plans.”
The improvements will include planning applications and land purchases. A detailed programme for delivery will be available later this year.