Tom Richmond: Case for Yorkshire’s A64 upgrade still stuck in political gridlock

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NEARLY 40 years after the Malton Bypass opened, the A64 coast road from York to Scarborough remains one of the country’s worst bottlenecks because of the interminable sections of single carriageway road.

As I wrote last summer, this state of affairs would not have been tolerated in London and the South where continuing investment in transport – much needed – is in stark contrast to the snail-like progress here.

Traffic builds on the A64 Leeds to Scarborough road outside York.

Traffic builds on the A64 Leeds to Scarborough road outside York.

Since the late 1970s, the M25 has been built, the Jubilee Line added to the London Underground network, the capital’s east-west Crossrail railway route opens next year and a north-south route is already being planned.

That’s just for starters. A second road tunnel under the river Thames at Dartford opened in 1980 – just a couple of years after Malton’s new road which was supposed to be the precursor to further improvements on the aforementioned A64 – followed by the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in 1991 and now plans for another two-mile tunnel, costing up to £6bn, have been unveiled this week.

I don’t begrudge this – there needs to be a wider acceptance in these parts about the extent to which business in London and the South East drives the wider national economy.

But...

If the capital – and other regions for that matter – are so adept at making the business case for important infrastructure projects which require Government funding, why do this region’s councils, MPs and others struggle to put together compelling arguments for investment?

It has to be one of three reasons. Either those concerned at Yorkshire’s town halls are not up to the job, there’s a discernible lack of transport expertise in the public sector here or Ministers remain in denial about the extent to which this region’s roads and railways have been shortchanged by successive governments.

This region is not a charity case. It just asks for fairness – and a proper debate about whether the wider rural economy and coastal communities (not just Scarborough) will benefit from better transport connections than at present.

For, given how David Cameron promised – and failed – to live up to his words on the A64, I’m not surprised Theresa May chose to go on a walking holiday in Snowdonia this week. At least she could get there.

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THE Government’s new litter strategy promises tougher fines for offenders – where have I heard that before? – but omits to mention the notions of ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘enforcement’.

Both are critical. Though the relaxation of charges at council-run waste disposal sites means there’s no excuse for flytipping, it won’t stop the selfish minority who treat the country like their own personal rubbish tip.

Just look at the detritus left behind at beaches, parks and beauty spots during last weekend’s heatwave. Don’t blame the councils – they’re doing their best. Fault rests with the careless and disrespectful.

That said, I think the threat of £150 fine will be no deterrent whatsoever, given how difficult it is to catch offenders in the act of discarding litter and rubbish to the satisfaction of the legal authorities.

However there’s a solution. Hold the registered owner of vehicles liable if soft drink bottles, food wrappers and anything else is discarded from the said car or lorry. It would only take a couple of landmark cases for this deterrent effect to work.

A rubbish idea or not?

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A NOTED horse racing devotee, it didn’t take long for Alex Salmond – Scotland’s former First Minister – to bask in the glory of One For Arthur’s Grand National victory (tipped in last week’s paper) for trainer Lucinda Russell and Peter Scudamore, jockey Derek Fox and the delightful Two Golf Widows.

Just the second Scottish-trained horse to conquer Aintree’s famous fences, he proclaimed: “Anything is possible when Scotland wins the Grand National.” If anything, the success was achieved in spite of ruinous SNP economic policies.

A serious politician would have noted the resilience and willpower of Fox, 24, who smashed up his right collarbone and left wrist less than a month before the big race – the rest of the country could learn from the never-say-die mentality of jockeys.

That he did so was testament to physio Danny Hague and fitness staff at Jack Berry House, the £3m Injured Jockeys Fund rehab centre in Malton. Given this one-to-one support, perhaps Mr Salmond – and others – should be looking at making physiotherapy and occupational therapy more widely available, and to the elderly in particular. They could call it Arthur’s Law.

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LIKE others, my local bank (Santander) in Guiseley is in the process of closing. The first I knew was a letter the other week informing me that the decision had been taken and was a fait accompli.

When I asked for precise details of the consultation that the bank said it had undertaken, none were forthcoming. That’s why it is important that politicians, and consumers, back South Yorkshire MP John Healey’s cross-party call for a tightening of the rules so alternative arrangements are considered at the outset.

Total transparency, please. After all, it was taxpayers who bailed out the banking industry, and are still doing so, after it went rogue during the credit crunch.

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I’VE lost count of the number of phone calls from the Manila call centre of Virgin Mobile.

Let me save them the cost of another call. If their new offer is so so good, why won’t they post, or email, the terms and conditions so I can check the small-print in my own time?