Top councillor in strongest attack against A61 two-way traffic idea for Harrogate so far

North Yorkshire County Council’s transport leader has issued his strongest condemnation yet of the campaign to turn the traffic clock back to 1970 on the A61 in Harrogate.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 4:40 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd July 2021, 4:42 pm
County Coun Don Mackenzie was replying to a call from Harrogate Civic Society to bring back two-way traffic to Parliament Street and West Park.

In reply to Harrogate Civic Society's call for a study into the idea, Coun Don Mackenzie said any scheme to revert to two-way traffic on Parliament Street and West Park for the first time in 50 years would dwarf the £11million Gateway project in cost and disruption.

As voices in the Harrogate community continue to argue that a feasibility study should be launched into their idea of ending the current one-way system, the county council’s executive member for transport said his estimate of a £30 million price tag was, if anything, an underestimate.

Coun Mackenzie said: “The £30m figure does not include any relocation of utility company assets and equipment, which is likely to be needed when junctions are reconfigured.

“Nor is mention made of the extensive period of disruption which would inevitably occur if this scheme were to go ahead.

“If you look at the major changes to several key junctions which would be required as a result of reverting to two-way traffic, it is hard to imagine a scheme like this being delivered along the A61 in central Harrogate for less than £30m.”

Coun Mackenzie argues the knock-on effects of the A61 idea would necessitate major work at at least five other junctions, including:

The junction of the A61 and Tower Street

The A61/Crescent Street junction close to the Turkish baths

The junction of the A61 and James Street

The junction of the A61, The Ginnel and Oxford Street

The A61 and Beech Grove/Victoria Avenue

The £11 million Gateway plans by North Yorkshire County Council to improve Harrogate town centre in a less car-friendly way have proven controversial in some quarters, especially when it comes to plans for pedestrianisation.

But Coun Mackenzie, in a letter to the Harrogate Advertiser, said the A61 idea would prove even more problematical and harder to fund without an element of environmental change.

He said: “Funding for changes of this nature is hard to come by. The focus at a national and regional level is increasingly around active/shared travel, creating a strong sense of place and addressing the climate emergency.”

In full: What Coun Don Mackenzie said to Harrogate Civic Society about the A61 idea

I have endeavoured to provide some additional reasoning behind the quoted figure of £30m. Here it is, via NYCC officers and the county council's highways consultants. None of the areas of concern below includes any relocation of utility company assets and equipment, which is likely to be needed when junctions are reconfigured. Nor is mention made of the extensive period of disruption which would inevitably occur if this scheme were to go ahead.

Transforming the highway back to two operation is entirely possible but the following are key areas of concern;

The potential need to introduce traffic signals to several junctions in order to ensure efficient traffic and positive road safety. These junctions operate effectively with one way operation but may need revisiting if looking at two way operation.

The junction of the A61 and Tower Street (access to West Park Multi Story)

The junction of the A61 and James Street

Junction of the A61, The Ginnel and Oxford Street. Existing pedestrian crossing could be revisited.

Changes both minor and major may need making to the following junctions

The A61 and Beech Grove/Victoria Avenue

Several minor junctions to limit turning movements (likely reduced to left in, left out or similar by using islands/kerbs and other physical infrastructure.

The A61/Crescent Street junction close to the Turkish baths.

In each instance a key issue is likely to be around capacity.

One way systems can help increase capacity for key movements by simplifying staging/junction operation. Making the A61 two-way again could creating significant issues at several key junctions.

At present two lanes approach from the north east to the junction of the A61/Crescent Road. One for straight on and one for right turn vehicles (towards Ripon).

If traffic would be permitted to also turn left (south along the A61 towards Leeds) this could create a capacity problem. The A61/Otley Road junction will also benefit from the one-way operation on one arm.

We had assumed as part of this intervention the highway would be resurfaced which comes at significant cost given the coverage (900m).

Funding for changes of this nature (highway capacity and vehicle traffic management) is hard to come by.

The focus at a national and regional level is increasingly around active/shared travel, creating a strong sense of place (culture heritage) and addressing the climate emergency.

The plan to make the proposed highway changes could possibly be secured as part of a wider plan to transform the experience of travelling through and around the centre by other modes. This would likely involve landscaping, sustainable urban drainage, cycle lanes, significant public realm improvement (back of footway to back of footway upgrades) and application of high quality materials across the piece.

As noted above we think there may be a need to make major changes to several key junctions in order to address the capacity issues. It is hard to imagine a scheme like this being delivered along the A61 in central Harrogate for less than £30m.

It is hard for us to give you advice on this as everyone might have a different idea of exactly what we are talking about.

In any event, the key question is how this would be funded, how it fits with regional and national transport/planning policy and what the knock on consequences of some of the changes could be in terms of highway capacity and congestion. Just like Harrogate, most large towns and small cities favour similar one way operation in the urban core for this very reason.

By Coun Don Mackenzie