An MP has claimed it would be a “catastrophically bad decision” if the main road between Leeds and the Yorkshire’s main coastal resorts was not given funding to become a dual carriageway as part of a major government funding scheme next year.
Kevin Hollinrake has vowed to keep the pressure up on Department for Transport and Highways England officials ahead of the announcement expected next month on the schemes to be included in the next Road Investment Strategy (RIS2).
He and others say there is a compelling case for the A64, which connects the Yorkshire coast with Leeds, to be turned into a dual carriageway east of York for the sake of coastal tourism, businesses and local NHS trusts.
Before Christmas, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton held a conference call to question officials about the methodology which decides the cost-benefit ratio for the various schemes in consideration for the £25bn RIS2 programme.
And he told The Yorkshire Post: “It was the first time we have spoken to officials at the DfT rather than Ministers. It was good to get the officials who are responsible for the decision together to discuss it. I am concerned they are not fully abreast of all the facts. We have serious questions about the methodology which has lowered the benefit cost ratio to lower than it ideally would be.”
He said mandarins had not taken into account the fact that the northern ring road around York would be dualled and the impact this would have on traffic flows.
Earlier this month, Mr Hollinrake and fellow North Yorkshire MPs Robert Goodwill and Julian Sturdy arranged for Roads Minister Baroness Vere to travel down the A64 to see the dire need for extra capacity on the road.
An organisation called the A64 Growth Partnership has also been set up to promote the upgrading of the road, which suffers severe congestion at peak times
Mr Hollinrake said: “We are not going to give them anywhere to hide. The decision is so close. I want everyone to be aware that it would be a catastrophically bad decision if they do not include the A64 in the programme.
“It is keeping the pressure up. I am hopeful, I think we are better than 50-50 but I am not taking anything for granted.”
It has been reported that Highways England will be given £25.3bn to deliver the RIS2 strategy, funded from ringfenced Vehicle Excise Duty through the National Roads Fund.
Among the arguments made to the Minister was that more than seven million people visit Scarborough annually and they reach their holiday destination by travelling along this one road. The road also acts as a vital artery for the York NHS Trust.
Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill said: “The A64 upgrade at Hopgrove is the single most important infrastructure project for my constituents in Scarborough and Whitby – despite being 38 and 45 miles from Scarborough and Whitby respectively.
”The unreliability of journey times not only impacts on companies like McCain that rely on HGV deliveries but has serious consequences for those commuting to work and for tourists returning to places like Leeds on a Bank Holiday Monday.
“This is the single biggest block to the economic development out on the coast”.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said a decision on RIS2 was due in early 2020 but declined to comment further. Highways England declined to comment.