The A66 and A64 road improvements heading towards a dead end in Yorkshire under Chris Grayling – Tom Richmond

I FEAR it could be the dead end for long-awaited road improvements after Chris Grayling – the self-appointed Minister for Road Signs following his meddlesome missive last month to council chiefs – paid a rare visit to Yorkshire.

Chris Grayling's Highway Code - according to cartoonist Graeme Bandeira.

The Cabinet Minister, whose calamitous reforms from probation to transport always end in disaster and require very costly U-turns, braved it to the aptly-named Richmond.

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Unfortunately, he did not wish to meet Yours Truly. According to the Highways England publicity blurb, the Transport Secretary was required to launch a “consultation” on the £1bn “upgrade” of the A66 between Scotch Corner and Penrith in Cumbria.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling at the launch of his A66 consultation.

Yet don’t be fooled into believing that Mr Grayling has suddenly become a supporter of the North after letting down rail users, and taxpayers, on so many occasions that it would – in my opinion – actually be cheaper to pay him to stay at home to do nothing.

When pressed, officials confirmed 
my suspicion that this upgrade had been first proposed more than 15 years ago when Labour was in power and long before Mr Grayling was in charge of anything.

“While ambitions for completing the dualling of the A66 between Penrith and Scotch Corner are not new and, indeed, the Highways Agency (Highways England’s predecessor) consulted over proposals in 2003, it was unable to take this forward at the time. The Temple Sowerby bypass was made a dual carriageway in 2007,” said a spokesman.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling visited Richmond this week to reveal a possible upgrade to the A66 - but there was a catch.

“In 2014, the Government announced that it intended to examine the case for dualling one of the routes across the Pennines in the north of England. In 2017, it was announced that the A66 had presented the strongest case for an upgrade and that plans for full dualling between the M6 and the A1(M) at Scotch Corner would be developed for the next Road Investment Strategy (RIS).”

Fine – but here’s the catch. Pressed when taxpayers could expect this work to take place, the spokesman said planning permission was still required and they hope to make “a start at the back end of the second RIS period (2020-2025)”. “This is subject to funding agreement and development of suitably agreed business case,” added the spokesman.

I’ll believe that when it happens. And as for further improvements to the main A64 coast road from York to Scarborough which David Cameron – remember him? – once described as a national priority, they’re going nowhere fast (just like Mr Grayling, unfortunately).

According to Highways England, the Department for Transport – oh dear – is considering “assessments” and vying for inclusion in proposals that will be considered between 2020 and 2025.

Plans were first revealed in 2003 to upgarde the A66 between Scotch Corner and Penrith.

As such, don’t be fooled by the use of words like “consultation” and “assessment” by Mr Grayling and his Cabinet colleagues – they’re just a ruse to mask the fact that the Government has totally ground to a halt and, in another sign of these political times, has reached the end of the road.

THERE is only one plausible explanation for Theresa May to wait until June 3, or thereabouts, for her another Commons vote on her EU Withdrawal Agreement.

By then, her premiership will – somehow – just have surpassed the two years, and 319 days, that Gordon Brown survived in office and she will not go down in history as the shortest-serving Prime Minister of recent times.

But it still does not excuse the fact that the Government has no legislative programme, no date for a new Queen’s Speech and had nothing to say – or do – when the House of Commons sat for just three fours and 34 minutes on Monday. It was another opportunity when the much-delayed Green Paper on social care could, with hindsight, have been unveiled.

THE extent to which Cabinet Ministers are consumed by Brexit was self-evident when Education Secretary Damian Hinds was interviewed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

Mr Hinds uttered the words ‘European Union’ on seven occasions. He used the word ‘school’ three times – twice with regard to private education and once over his department’s misuse of official statistics. And he did not even engineer the interview to slip in the T-word – teachers. Shame on him.

AN unfortunate – or deliberate? – error on the Sky News subtitles during Prime Minister’s Questions when a MP’s reference to Ukip saw it described as the ‘You Lie Party’.

JEREMY Corbyn’s pledge to pay young workers £10 an hour under a Labour government inevitably appealed to first-time voters, and under-25s, who are in awe of the Opposition leader. Yet the Tories will get nowhere by responding with attacks on Mr Corbyn’s integrity. Are they unable to put forward articulate economic arguments?

AT last regular letter-writers to The Yorkshire Post have been proven right – the energy industry’s so-called smart meters, to help householders monitor gas and electricity and usage, are not so smart when users wish to switch suppliers in the hope for cheaper prices. Around 2.5 million meters are faulty. The only surprise is that it took so long for the Government to confirm one failing where Chris Grayling does not appear to be culpable (at the time of writing).

FIRST past the post in the 2019 Snobbery Stakes is York Racecourse after promoting this week’s Dante Festival on social media as the return of “proper racing” and a “proper day out” – the assumption being that all other race meetings in Yorkshire are inferior despite their own charms and appeals to racing devotees and spectators.