Tom Richmond: Driven to distraction by cash-starved coast road

When will the A64 be upgraded?
When will the A64 be upgraded?
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IF ever there was a symbol of the North-South divide – and the need for councils across Yorkshire to work together to secure fairer funding when it comes to transport – it is the main A64 coast road from York to Malton and Scarborough.

Even on a mundane Monday in those middling afternoon hours prior to the evening rush, this route was nose-to-tail because of the sheer weight of traffic and the abiding failure of successive governments to dual this road in its entirety. My sympathies to those caught up in longer snarl-ups at busier times of the day – and year.

It was the same long after on the evening rush on the trip back to York – a long queue of slowly-moving vehicles trundling along at little more than 10mph because cars and lorries up ahead were waiting to turn-off and so on.

It’s not their fault – this is the consequence of spending being skewed so heavily in favour of the South that the total amount being spent on the much-vaunted Crossrail scheme in London (4.6bn) now exceeds the combined cost of every transport project in the North (£4.3bn).

Given that these figures come courtesy of the Department for Transport, it makes an even greater mockery of David Cameron’s promises to Parliament, in both January 2014 and June 2015, that he sympathised with all those campaigning for the route to be upgraded.

Even with Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill serving as a transport minister in Mr Cameron’s government before being promoted to Immigration Minister by Theresa May, there seems to be no forward momentum.

What now? There should be three elements to the route-map.

As part of devolution discussions, council and business leaders in West, North and East Yorkshire need to recognise this road’s strategic importance – coastal communities need better access if they’re to attract both tourists and sufficient levels of inward investment to create new jobs in an area where living standards are below the national average. If this happens, the whole region will reap the rewards.

They then need to come up with an economic case so compelling that it cannot be given the red light by Ministers – this, after all, is a scheme which will depend on national funding because local authorities simply do not have the cash reserves to undertake infrastructure improvements on this scale. Don’t forget safety, this road is a notorious accident blackspot that has claimed too many lives.

And then they should follow the example of the revitalised Malton, a town transformed after reinventing itself as a ‘food capital’, and start promoting business opportunities in coastal towns.

If local, regional and national leaders are sufficiently committed to Yorkshire, they will preside over a new direction of travel for transport – and the neglected North.

LIKE all those who are quietly impressed by Theresa May, the new PM continues to make a favourable impression. She has cut the number of Ministers entitled to attend Cabinet from 31 to 28 because she believes in the maxim that ‘less is more’. Also note her dearth of media and PR events.

It does not end here. As well as axing many ambassadorial ‘tsars’ – which were little more than tokenism – Mrs May says Cabinet colleagues will be entitled to a maximum of two special advisers each after the bill for these unelected aides rose from £6m a year under Tony Blair to £9m last year.

However I’m surprised – and disappointed – that Mrs May has not dispensed with the right of PMs to issue their own honours after David Cameron, otherwise known as ‘Dodgy Dave’, took cronyism to a new low when he left 10 Downing Street.

I suspect Mrs May wants some wriggle-room ahead of next month’s review of Parliamentary boundaries as the Tories look to cut the number of constituencies from 650 to 600 – she might need to dangle various carrots, like knighthoods and damehoods, if some sitting MPs prove to be awkward and recalcitrant over the changes.

I hope that I’m wrong – taking a stand on this issue will help the PM put clear blue water between herself and her predecessor’s chumocracy.

PERHAPS others are finally waking up to my many comments highlighting the political shortcomings of flooding failure Liz Truss before she was promoted, I kid you not, to the the post of Justice Secretary.

Of the 28 Cabinet Ministers, Ms Truss has the lowest net satisfaction score according to the ConservativeHome website. I’m just surprised that David Cameron and Theresa May think the Minister has hidden talents. I would like to know what they are.

ONE tip for the remainder of the Rio Olympics – the BBC’s coverage on Radio Five Live is far superior to Clare Balding and Co on the television.

John Hunt’s commentary of swimmer Adam Peaty’s gold medal win was spine-tingling while TV’s Andy Jamieson did not rise to the occasion, not least because of his over-reliance on the word ‘absolutely’ which he used three times in the final 25 metres. This has to be the most misused word in sports broadcasting – what is the difference between brilliant and absolutely brilliant?

Equally radio coverage of Jack Laugher and Chris Mears’s gold medal in the diving was captivating while Leon Taylor, the over-excited diving pundit on the telly, had resorted to using words like ‘shonky’ earlier in the week to describe dives just a fraction of a second of out in their execution. He clearly doesn’t realise that this word also means ‘illegal’. Radio 1, Television 0.

TO me, it was the moment of redemption for the Olympics – Ripon diver Jack Laugher shaking his head in disbelief as he collected his gold medal with three metre synchro partner Chris Mears who had nearly died in 2009 from a ruptured spleen. Best friends and house-mates, these nerveless, fun-loving personalities, who train in Leeds, exemplify the best of sport after overcoming so much adversity – Laugher struggled with the weight of expectation at London 2012 – to win the biggest prize of all. Take a bow lads, this is what the Olympics should be about.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk