Travel fears over Yorkshire coast's tourist boom

A summer tourism boom predicted for the Yorkshire coast as holidaymakers renounce foreign travel could be stifled by a lack of key transport links, political leaders have warned.

CARTOON: Graeme Bandeira

With a weakening pound ahead of Brexit, rising numbers of people are expected to holiday in the UK this summer as families face soaring costs to travel abroad. This brings opportunities to capitalise on the coast, MPs and tourism leaders have said, alongside a warning of the “perennial problems” of congestion, tailbacks and delays.

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And while work is under way, with pledges to invest on the A64 alongside bids to improve rail links, they say definitive answers are needed over what will be done and when.

Whitby. PIC: James Hardisty

“If we are looking at further growth, we are looking at growth capacity,” said Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive Sir Gary Verity, stressing that hotel development is key alongside issues around overseas recruitment after Brexit.

The tourism industry brings £8bn to Yorkshire’s economy, with visitor spend in Scarborough, the second-most visited holiday spot in the country after London, being £303m. But the issue that is raised most among businesses in the region, added Sir Gary, is congestion.

“The roads are becoming even busier; congestion at times is a serious issue,” he said. “The A64 has to be dualled, and we could do with a timetable sooner rather than later. This is something that has been talked about for over 30 years, and it’s incredible we don’t have a timetable.”

Whitby. PIC: James Hardisty

Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, who has long campaigned on the issue, said dualling the A64 would bring a “multitude of advantages” to the region, easing congestion, increasing tourism and facilitating growth.

“Wage levels drop from York towards the coast as connectivity to York worsens and the lower-skilled work becomes more prevalent,” he said. “I’m often asked when, rather than if, we will get a dual carriageway for the A64.

“The answer is we needed it yesterday. In fact, we have needed it for the past 30 years.”

Highways England said it is looking at options to ease congestion between 2020 and 2025 as part of a £15bn road programme, and consultations will be held this year. The Department for Transport said £380m had already been invested in the A1 between Leeming and Barton, improving access for tourists travelling to the coast, adding that £13bn has been set aside to transform northern transport.

Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill said he is confident work will begin in the next decade, while there are hopes for better train links with bids from Network Rail for extra services from York to Scarborough.

“The A64 is the perennial problem,” he said. “We need to work hard to achieve improvements and also to ensure when delivered, we can crack that nut once and for all.”