North Yorkshire County Council has made its clearest statement yet that it is willing help in efforts to improve the worst level crossing in Harrogate.
The long-running saga of huge traffic queues and worries about air pollution at Starbeck railway crossing on Knaresborough Road was prompted originally by campaigner Trevor Dale, a spokesperson of Harrogate Line Supporters Group, who has spent years fighting to reduce the amount of time the Starbeck barrier is down.
Now, for the first time, the county council has said it may consider part-funding improvements to the signalling at this controversial crossing which leads to lengthy queues of static traffic as much as 30 times a day.
Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council's executive member for access, said:
"NYCC have identified the following level crossings which could possibly have closure times reduced by investment by the county Ccouncil: in addition to Starbeck, the others are at Kildwick and Northallerton.
"The biggest reduction in closure times is potentially for Starbeck.
"Network Rail has at our request agreed to carry out preliminary work in order to identify what signalling changes would need to be made to bring about these improvements in barrier downtimes.
"Subject to such findings, North Yorkshire County Council may be willing to fund the upgrades which would directly benefit road users.
"NYCC does not have a budget for level crossings which are part of railway infrastructure. I would be willing to make the case that the County Council use on-street parking surpluses which have always been used for transport and air-quality-related schemes."
Some campaigners have argued that the new York-Harrogate-Leeds railway timetable introduced last month has led to the Starbeck barrier being down for even longer at certain times of the day, especially at around 6pm when they complained the waiting time has gone up to eight or nine minutes.
But Coun Mackenzeie said Network Rail had assured him this was, in fact, not the case at all.
Coun Mackenzie said: "I asked NYCC rail officers to check out the statements made suggesting that the May 19 timetable, incorporating a third train every hour between Harrogate and Leeds but not affecting Starbeck at all, has led to longer downtime for the Starbeck level crossing gates.
"NwR has confirmed to us that there is no reason for such longer timings and they deny that these have occurred."
A family fun Clean Air Day is to be held at Starbeck junction on Thursday, June 20 by local pressure group Zero Carbon Harrogate as part of its own ‘anti-idling’ campaign.
Coun Mackenzie said it was important motorists took responsiblity for switching their engines off when stuck in traffic at railway crossings.
"There is another option available to improve air quality at Starbeck crossing, but it needs the cooperation of drivers of vehicles which do not automatically switch off when stationary with brakes applied: switch off the engine whilst the level crossing gates are down."