Transport Talk with Coun Don Mackenzie

Coun Don Mackenzie
Coun Don Mackenzie

I met recently with Harrogate Chamber’s influential Traffic and Transport Forum, whose members include key users of our local highways like bus operators, taxi and courier companies, and which is chaired by former Chamber Chief Executive, Brian Dunsby.

Nigel Smith, NYCC’s recently appointed Highways Area Manager, joined us.

The meeting was hosted by Harrogate Borough Council.

Much was gained from members’ comments, which described challenges faced by local businesses going about their daily work on our busy roads.

There was discussion about key junctions, especially Ripon Road/Parliament Street/Kings Road, and the need to improve traffic flows on the A61 both ways.

There was a request to introduce smart traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, which respond in real time to traffic flows.

Most already are, and the rest will be upgraded too.

All present at this first meeting agreed that the economic success of the town relied upon good and efficient highways infrastructure.

No business in Harrogate – and especially those dependent upon reliable journey-planning and attracting visitors – benefits from congested roads.

Further meetings will follow.

Last week the NYCC Harrogate Area Committee received reports on three highways matters, all involving the A59.

Kex Gill

Short-term difficulties caused by the slope above the A59 at Kex Gill are being managed, but the medium-term aim of the County Council is to divert the key trans-Pennine route from this landslip-prone area. This project has high priority in the County’s Strategic Transport Prospectus.

Committee members heard that a business case is being prepared, looking at options to realign the A59, including also a climbing lane up to the Hopper Lane Hotel to improve traffic flow towards Harrogate.

The report listed potential benefits of this investment, not least removing the threat of road closure. Environmental considerations will be prominent in this area of high landscape importance.

Harrogate Relief Road

There was a further update on the Harrogate Relief Road review, including key dates for the next 12 months.

Highways consultant, Mouchel, has been commissioned to undertake the review, which will establish first whether a new road is needed, and, if so, what its alignment should be, and what sustainable transport measures should complement such a road. Significant dates in 2017 are:

May-June, engage with key stakeholders

Mar-September, desktop surveys, identification and assessment of options

March-September, initial Appraisal Specification Report

October, decision point on Options Assessment Report (OAR)

October-December, public consultation on the OAR

March 2018, the Area Committee will be asked to give its formal views before NYCC Executive decides on which, if any, route option be taken forward for development and completion of the business case.

If a preferred option is chosen, there would be six months’ work on a Strategic Outline Business Case, whose completion would place the County Council in a strong position to present a case for funding to central government.

Bond End Air Quality

Area Committee members received an update on the recent month-long public consultation on improvement plans for this Knaresborough junction, where levels of NO2 exceed safe limits.

In view of strong public support for Option 1, under which both sets of traffic lights are replaced by mini-roundabouts, and which officers originally recommended be not progressed, further assessment work on Options 1, 3 (one roundabout) and 7 (no roundabout) would now be done.

The Bond End Steering Group will make its final recommendation to be presented for comment to the Area Committee in June. A final decision on the way forward will be taken by the NYCC Director and by Executive Members in the summer, and the scheme will be delivered before the end of the calendar year.

l LATE NEWS: Air quality problems all along the High Street in Knaresborough will be targeted as part of the £5.1m additional highways funding which NYCC will receive from central government for 2017/18.

Up to £850,000 has been allocated for this.

A further £100,000 is planned for Bluetooth hardware to be installed in Harrogate to monitor congestion and to support the town’s Urban Traffic Control system.