Transport Talk with Coun Don Mackenzie: Relief road priority is to reduce traffic in town

A Superfast North Yorkshire cabinet can provide 25Mbps broadband to subscribers within 1.2km.
A Superfast North Yorkshire cabinet can provide 25Mbps broadband to subscribers within 1.2km.

Most residents are of the view that Harrogate is in need of a fundamental upgrading of its highways infrastructure.

NYCC highways officers have shown me the results of preliminary work on Harrogate relief road options.

These will be considered next month by a steering group, whose job it will be to make recommendations to the county council on a preferred option, taking advice and guidance from a wider engagement group made up of key persons and organisations in the area.

I have seen four draft proposals, each accompanied by forecasts of its effect on traffic volumes on key routes over the next 20 years.

Those proposals are: west of Harrogate in a north-south line; north of Harrogate in a wide half-circle between the B6161 roundabout on the A59 and the same road near Goldsborough; the final two options are based on a tighter half-circle to the north of Harrogate bisecting the gap between the town and Knaresborough.

The priority for any relief road will be to reduce traffic volumes in and around the town centre, as well as improving east-west journey times on the A59.

NYCC will keep residents fully updated on the work of the steering group over the next 12-18 months as options for major, much-needed infrastructure improvements are evaluated.

Early estimates suggest a scheme cost of £70m-£100m.

The cost of preparing the bid to Central Government is likely to be around £500,000 and one source of funding will be on-street parking surpluses.

Pedestrian Crossing, 
Cheltenham Parade

As promised, some changes will be taking place shortly to improve the four-way, signalised pedestrian crossing on Cheltenham Parade and Station Parade. These include:

l Allowing pedestrians to cross Cheltenham Parade when Lower Station Parade traffic has a green light. Users are currently wondering why they cannot cross Cheltenham Parade when the traffic in front of them is held on red.

l The green/red lights for pedestrians will be transferred to poles on the far side of the road, rather than on the nearside. Many find this arrangement more user-friendly.

We have considered the use of countdown clocks to show pedestrians how long they have left to complete their crossing, but have decided against these, at least for now, because of the additional delays they would have caused at certain times to traffic.

Superfast Broadband

Broadband is part of my portfolio of responsibilities at NYCC.

Whether for work, school and study, tele-medicine, booking holidays and travel and for countless other purposes, high quality broadband is an important utility for home and business.

Superfast North Yorkshire is a NYCC project, managed by NYnet, which has since 2012 been delivering broadband of minimum 25Mbps download speed to those premises in North Yorkshire, which would not be able to receive the commercially available service.

The project is funded by money from Central Government, from the EU, and by the NYCC taxpayer.

Phase one of the project connected up 150,000 premises at an average cost of £177 per connection. We are now nearing the end of phase two which, when complete in about nine months’ time, will have linked up a further 15,000 premises at the much higher average cost of £559. By that stage, about 91 per cent of all residences and businesses will have the option of subscribing to superfast broadband.

Last month, we launched the start of procurement of phase three with a contract value of £20.5m (of which over £12m is from NYCC), and which, depending on the winning bid, should take coverage up to at least 95 per cent.

The average connection cost is likely to be as much as £1,500 per premise.

North Yorkshire is a pioneer authority in delivering a superfast broadband project.

The highest hurdle is yet to come – connecting the residual three to five per cent of premises, which are likely to be in the most remote locations, but not necessarily so. In fact, as residents in certain villages close to Harrogate will confirm – Brearton, Follifoot and Kirkby Overblow,

Plompton and Scotton have all been in touch recently – there are several communities close to town, which, for one reason or other, are not yet connected up.

NYCC and SFNY are fully aware of those isolated problems, and of the frustrations of householders and businesses, whose near neighbours enjoy the benefits of high quality broadband.

Alternatives like wireless and satellite are, of course, available.

NYCC is also considering the use of additional funding in certain cases to supplement phase three.