North Yorkshire take first step for Harrogate's western bypass plans

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The first steps on the road to a new western bypass for Harrogate were taken today after the county council approved the Strategic Transport Prospectus.

The prospectus sets out how North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) would like to benefit from, and contribute to, The Northern Powerhouse while working with Transport for the North.

As part of the 30-year strategy to improve transport links across the county, NYCC has included exciting plans to build a new A59 bypass of Harrogate.

The bypass is part of the county council's wider plans to improve east and west connectivity for people travelling from York to Harrogate on to Skipton and then East Lancashire.

As well as improving east to west connections, the plans should ease congestion along Skipton Road according to NYCC's Executive Member for Highways, Coun Don Mackenzie (Cons, Harlow Moor).

With the plans for the new bypass expected to cost between £50m-£75m, NYCC are asking the Government for a proportion of the funding available for The Northern Powerhouse.

Coun Mackenzie spoke at the meeting of the Executive today (October 27) and said the prospectus was a 'timely piece of work' and stressed its importance to North Yorkshire and, in particular, Harrogate.

He said: "Harrogate is in an interesting position. Anyone who goes to Harrogate, lives in Harrogate or visits Harrogate knows that congestion is a major factor.

"That congestion will not be relieved by small scale developments but by fundamental improvements to our highways infrastructure. This prospectus sets out clearly for Government where we need to see these improvements.

"If we brought those about we can play a very big part in improving the success and viability of the Northern Powerhouse in Northern England."

The Northern Powerhouse is a vision that seeks to connect the six northern city regions with each other and with the rest of the county to allow them to function as a single economy.

During the meeting, Coun Mackenzie stressed that North Yorkshire had an important role to play in this vision, being at the geographical centre of this group and boasting a thriving economy.

As a result, he argued improvements to transport and highways in the county, including Harrogate, had to take place to 'fully contribute to and benefit from the potential of the Northern Powerhouse'.

The prospectus also includes plans to improve access to high speed and conventional rail, including transformational changes on the Leeds-Harrogate-York railway.

These 'long term' plans are expected to cost around £170m and, in the Stategic Transport Prospectus report, Coun Mackenzie stated there was a 'strong business case' for the line to be electrified.

The report states: "Harrogate is the largest town in North Yorkshire and supports the Leeds City Region and with high quality attractive housing, exceptional schools and safe and strong communities, all making it attractive for professionals to live.

"Our long term plan for the line is for a £170m investment to bring about the electrification of the line, transformation and modernisation of Harrogate Station, and double tracking all of the remaining single track sections to improve performance and resilience.

"These works are being phased over the next 10 years, with the first sections of double track that are being funded by the County Council to be completed by 2018."

The report states NYCC will be reviewing the Northern Relief Road proposals to improve both east-west connectivity while addressing urban traffic congestion.

"Many of the improvements in transport and highways have to take place. Some of them are straightforward options such as improvements to rail," Coun Mackenzie explained.

"There are areas where we need to see financial improvements such as the York to Scarborough line and on the Leeds to Harrogate to York line.

"There is already money set aside to improve the Harrogate line to add twin tracking between Knaresborough and York but electrification will make them much more fit for purpose in the 21st century.

"We are looking at improvements to our east and west connections. We already have the A1(M) but it's the east to west that needs improving.

"It's a very timely piece of work and it comes at a time when powers are being devolved. When that happens we need to set out where our priorities lie."