Barry Dodd: A64 highway to holiday hell can be an engine of growth

IT'S become a Yorkshire experience; that trip to the coast that quickly turns into frustration.

York's notorious Hopgrove roundabout.
York's notorious Hopgrove roundabout.

Excitement wanes as the A64 dual carriageway at York turns into miles of standing traffic with no alternative but to inch along – and inch some more – as you make a stop-start journey over the next 40-plus miles to Scarborough or the Moors or Whitby.

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The return journey is no different, it’s once again nose to tail, with miles of standing traffic at those points where the rare stretches of dual carriageway have to decant all the traffic back into a single carriageway.

A new campaign is being launched today to widen the A64.

This is now the everyday experience between Malton and York where traffic levels are so high that we dream of the days when the jams only happened during the school holidays.

The people, businesses and civic leaders in the area between York and the coast have had enough. It’s time to do something about under-funding of the roads and infrastructure in the North and remove one of Yorkshire’s major pinch-points.

We have all manner of businesses in this area, from micro to multi-national – but all rely on the A64 to transport materials, products and staff.

We also have some huge investments planned and opportunities for growth – the potash mine near Whitby is the single biggest private investment in the north of England; the National Agri Food Innovation Campus is attracting hundreds of jobs at Sand Hutton; Yorkshire’s only Food Enterprise Zone at Malton is now open for business; Kingspan at Sherburn and McCain Foods at Scarborough are huge employers in the region and the focus for millions of pounds of new investment; the new Coventry University Scarborough and Scarborough University Technical College bring exciting new opportunities; over 10,000 new homes are planned as Scarborough grows, and impressive plans for a Marina and town centre redevelopment will boost Bridlington.

A new campaign is being launched today to widen the A64.

This part of Yorkshire is very special and widely loved – the North York Moors and the Wolds, the beautiful market towns and historic houses, the glorious Yorkshire coast with the jewels of Whitby, Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington – continue to attract people, many of whom live in West and South Yorkshire and rely on the A64. Despite our poor road links, over 1.4m people per year visit Whitby, Scarborough and Filey, making it the second most visited part of the UK after London.

Not every aspect of life is sweet. Less well connected areas away from city regions generally have lower wages and levels between York and the coast are amongst the lowest in Yorkshire.

This makes the housing even less affordable, especially in Ryedale. Pockets of serious deprivation occur in Scarborough and Bridlington. Skill, health and attainment levels fall well short of some of the wealthier parts of Yorkshire and reflect the economic impacts of poor transport linkages.

Crucially, the economic gaps between this area and the better connected Leeds City Region are set to grow unless we can make a major success of the exciting investments possible in the area between York and the coast; we need road links that encourage investors and and benefit employers and employees.

Local businesses and councils are working with the Local Enterprise Partnership for York, North Yorkshire and East Riding in a new campaign to make sure that this time around the Government delivers on turning the A64 into dual carriageway – at least as far east as Malton – and that new safety and overtaking improvements are made right across to the coast.

In close liaison with the MPs for the area – Kevin Hollinrake and Robert Goodwill – the new A64 Growth Partnership will be formally launched at Sand Hutton’s National Agri Food Innovation Campus today, with local businesses explaining the difficulties that the route causes. The new Partnership will be the voice of local businesses and the community in pressing Government for the major investment required.

There has been excellent early news for the A64 Growth Partnership with the recent publication of a Highways England report that concludes that planned investment in the Hopgrove junction, where the A64 meets the York Ring Road, would be better spent on dualling that single carriageway section of the A64 between York and Barton Hill. This is a tremendous start, but there are still hurdles to cross. The allocation of up to £250m for the Hopgrove junction in the Government’s Roads Investment Strategy will all be needed – and possibly more – to deliver the dual carriageway recommended by Highways England.

The A64 Growth Partnership will also press Ministers for the next section of single carriageway – between Crambeck and Malton – to be upgraded to dual carriageway and for targeted schemes to improve safety and allow traffic to flow.

If we can achieve the necessary investment in the A64 we can remove one of Yorkshire’s major blockages and take away the frustrations and costs that hold back the businesses and people across our area and deliver greater economic prosperity for all.

Barry Dodd CBE is Chair of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership. He is writing on behalf of the A64 Growth Partnership.

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