OPINION: Lots of work in the pipeline for North Yorkshire County Council - Coun Don Mackenzie
The county council held its quarterly meeting this week. At full council meetings executive members present a statement summarising developments in their portfolio, which in my case includes highways, transport, countryside access, broadband and mobile telephony. This is an abridged version of my statement.
We are ready for winter. Salt barns and bins have been restocked, and our gritting teams have reviewed operational procedures. Our new company NY Highways has carried out gritting route familiarisation for our drivers who have stayed with us through the transition so that we retain the specialist knowledge and expertise needed to deliver our excellent winter service.
We have invested over £500,000 in ten new weather stations, providing the county council with the most up to date equipment of its type in the country. Road users will also be able to track our gritters and view local weather conditions online. We have invested £2.2m in 18 new gritting vehicles, reducing the average age of our fleet to only 3.7 years, and allowing us to achieve efficiencies in our salt spreading rates without reducing the quality of the service. We have provided new ploughs and salt spreaders to farming contractors who stand ready to help during extreme weather conditions.
Work is progressing at Junction 47 of the A1M where the motorway passes under the A59. This £8m scheme includes the construction of an additional lane on the A59 eastbound, widening of the motorway slip roads, and the introduction of traffic light controls on the roundabout and at the A168 T-junction nearby. Following our successful bid for funding and the granting of planning permission earlier this year, we are hopeful that the £61m scheme to divert the A59 trans-Pennine route at Kex Gill will get underway later this year.
Transforming Cities Fund schemes
A final round of public consultations on the £42m Government’s Transforming Cities Fund ended last week. The Gateway proposals for Harrogate, Selby and Skipton have attracted much comment. The views expressed will be taken into account when final designs are drawn up. Recommendations will come in a report to the executive in the new year with work planned to start in spring 2022.
The county council’s £10m recent investment in the Harrogate rail line between Knaresborough and York, in partnership with the North Yorkshire LEP and designed to increase capacity on this single track section of the line, has secured an immediate return. Train operator Northern’s new timetable, effective from December 12, shows a doubling of service frequency between York and Harrogate. This is good news for rail travellers and for our efforts to boost public transport.
Our YorBus pilot, the digital demand-responsive bus service introduced around Bedale, Masham and Ripon, has been operating for over four months and passenger numbers have grown. This flexible service allows users to book travel to and from anywhere in the zone using an app. The service operates six days per week. Early signs are really positive, and users have given us top marks for service.
The county council’s bid to the DfT’s Zero Emissions Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme has been shortlisted. We will now submit a business case in partnership with Harrogate Bus Company for an ambitious plan to convert the entire Harrogate bus fleet to electric. Our bid is for £8m, whilst Transdev will contribute £11.5m.
Broadband and mobile telephony
The Superfast North Yorkshire project, started in 2012 and managed by our broadband company, NYnet, is currently in Phase 4 of its expansion programme. Thanks to SFNY over 200,000 domestic and business premises have been provided with high quality broadband, which they would not otherwise have received.
This latest phase will connect 16,000 properties. Visit www.connectedyorkshire.co.uk.
Our delivery of free public Wi-Fi to 18 town centres throughout our county is underway. So far the service has gone live in: Leyburn, Northallerton, Ripon, Scarborough and Skipton. Next up are: Malton, Richmond, Selby, Stokesley, Tadcaster, Thirsk and Whitby. Boroughbridge, Harrogate and Knaresborough are all on the list over the next few weeks.