Transport bosses in York today unveil a wish list of major transport schemes to reduce congestion and improve public transport in the city. And they want the people of York to have a say. STEPHEN LEWIS reports.
TRANSPORT bosses in York have not given up on the hope of one day dualling at least part of the city’s northern ring road – even though it could cost up to £150 million.
The proposal is one of the items included on a wish list of schemes to improve transport in York over the next ten to 20 years unveiled by council bosses in an exclusive meeting with The Press.
Other items – which the council describes as ‘aspirations’ – on the list include a Haxby railway station; improvements to bus services, including the possibility of introducing electric buses; a freight depot on the edge of town to reduce the number of delivery vehicles in the city centre, and a new Park&Ride at Clifton Moor .
Also on the list is a scheme to demolish the Queen Street bridge and build a bus interchange beneath – as revealed in The Press earlier this month.
Transport bosses in the city accept there is no way the council could fund any of these schemes itself. They will only be able to push ahead with any of the items on their list with significant central government funding, as well as investment from business.
Four years ago, dualling the outer ring road was ruled out as a possibility on the grounds of cost. It was estimated it could cost up to £264 million.
Plans for a proposed £4.5 million railway station at Haxby were also put on hold in 2010 because of uncertainty surrounding central government funding.
But the funding goalposts have changed since then, said Coun Dave Merrett , the city council’s cabinet member for transport, planning and sustainability.
Decisions on awarding central government funds for major transport projects are to be devolved to regional decision-makers, he said, giving York more of a chance to make its case.
Funding decisions will also be based more on the potential that transport schemes have for promoting economic growth, which should give York a better chance. And the city becoming part of the wider Leeds City Region group of local authorities will also increase its chances of securing government funds.
The city council is also likely to need to use ‘planning gain’ (ie contributions to major public projects by developers) and to earmark some of the income from business rates (possible in future under a new arrangement known as ‘earn back’) to move forward.
Even so, council bosses accept there is almost certainly no way they will be able to achieve all the aspirations revealed today.
Coun Merrett said it was vital the council had a strategy and a clear idea of what it would like to achieve, however, so that it could take advantage of any funding opportunities that came up.
That is why the authority has today launched a public debate on what the city’s transport priorities should be – and which items on the list the people of York think most worth pursuing.
“We want people to be aware that there is a long-term strategy,” said Richard Wood, the council’s assistant director for planning and transport.
“But this is a long list. We will have to prioritise. So this is an opportunity for people to give us their views about what they see as being the key transport priorities.”
The long list includes eight schemes or transport aims. They aren’t all separate, stressed Neil Taylor, the council’s interim director of city and environmental services. Many are interconnected, like a jigsaw, and it may be possible to progress certain schemes bit by bit so progress is made in ‘bite-sized chunks’.
Here is the wish list in full:
As reported in The Press earlier this month, this would involve demolishing the Queen Street Bridge near the railway station, and creating a bus/rail interchange on the land below.
Passengers emerging from the station would have to walk only short distances to catch buses to most destinations in York. The scheme would also involve relocation of station parking and a new multi-storey car park, as well as a footway linking the station with the York Central site behind.
Estimated cost: in the region of £15 million to £30 million.
Public transport improvements
A range of possible improvements to public transport in York, including:
• New bus priority lanes to speed up bus journeys and increase punctuality
• Bus fare reductions and ticketing improvements in negotiation with bus operators
• Better information about bus times and connections, along the lines of the i-Travel scheme to encourage more bus use that will be launched tomorrow
• Improvements to bus fleets
• Possibility of electric buses to reduced noise and pollution.
Estimated cost of improvements: anything from a few million pounds to £60 million, depending on what changes are made
Haxby railway station
Two years ago, work on proposals for a £4.5 million railway station in Haxby were put on hold because of the uncertainty over government funding. But the scheme is firmly back on the council’s transport wish list.
It would offer a perfect way into work for people from the north of the city – especially if a business district was to be built on the York Central site just behind York railway station, said Neil Taylor.
It would also provide a real alternative to the car for those looking to come into the city from the northern suburbs for other purposes, he added – especially if the bus/ rail interchange beneath what is now the Queen Street bridge became a reality.
Estimated cost: £5 million to £10 million
New roads into York Central If the potential of the massive York Central site behind the railway station is to be unlocked, there will need to be at least one major new road leading into it.
There are two most obvious options for such a road; via a bridge from Holgate ; or from the business park where CPP is based.
Either would help make the redevelopment of the huge site possible, with much-needed new housing, leisure facilities, and a new business district that could bring many jobs to York.
Estimated cost: £15 million to £30 million.
A19 bus lane and improvements to access at the Naburn
Naburn is the least successful of the city’s ring of existing Park & Ride sites, said Coun Merrett.
Improvements would include bus priority lanes on the stretch of the A19 approaching the Park & ride site from Escrick , as well as improved access to the Park&Ride site itself.
Estimated cost: less than £5 million
A new Clifton Moor Park&Ride
New Park & Ride at Clifton Moor, together with improvements to Wigginton Road to accommodate Park & Ride buses.
The new service would call at York Hospital , as well as serving the Clifton Moor shops, said Coun Dave Merrett, the council’s cabinet member for transport, planning and sustainability.
Estimated cost: in the region of £7million to £8 million.
Outer ring road improvements
Three possible levels of improvement:
• Low intervention: improvement to junctions on the stretch of the northern outer ring road between the A59 and Monks Cross, to reduce congestion, improve ring road journey times and encourage more traffic to bypass the city centre. Estimated journey time savings of four to six minutes. Estimated cost: £30 million to £40 million.
• Medium intervention: dual the northern outer ring road between the A59 and the A19. This would involve building an additional bridge over the River Ouse to run parallel to the existing A1237 bridge. Each bridge would carry traffic in one direction only. Estimated journey time savings of eight to nine minutes. Estimated cost: £50 million to £100 million
• High intervention: dual the northern ring road between the A59 and Monks Cross. This would involve an additional bridge over the Ouse, and three new flyovers or underpasses: one each at the A59 and A19 junctions, and a third at the Great North Way/Millfield Lane roundabout.
Estimated journey time savings: eight 11 minutes.
Estimated cost: in the region of £100 million to £150 million
The council is already looking into how the number of delivery lorries and vans coming into the city centre can be reduced.
Consultations are ongoing with businesses, the universities, the hospital, and freight operators to look at delivery patterns, and to see if more efficient ways can be devised of bringing goods and deliveries into York.
A much-talked-about freight hub somewhere on the edge of the city may be one way of reducing congestion from delivery vans: but better coordination of deliveries may also help, said Richard Wood.
Estimated cost of producing a plan for more efficient deliveries, and for assessing the potential of an out-of-town freight hub: uncertain at this stage.
Aims: boost business and reduce congestion
THE same basic aims underlie all the proposals on the council’s transport wish list, says Coun Dave Merrett. T
hey are to:
• Boost business and economic growth (thus creating jobs), by providing the Transport infrastructure that will make it possible for businesses to grow, or encourage them to relocate here from elsewhere
• Reduce congestion, so cutting travel times and making York a more pleasant place to live and work
• Encourage more people to cycle and walk by reducing the dominance of the car – thus improving health
• Reducing air pollution caused by traffic fumes. Certain parts of the city centre and Fishergate are in breach of European air quality limits designed to protect us from the effects of long-term airborne pollution, for example by nitrogen dioxide.
The Rougier Street/ George Hudson Street area is even worse. Nitrogen dioxide levels are so high here that, for those with conditions such as asthma, there is an immediate risk of health problems. Nitrogen dioxide inflames the lining of the lungs, and can cause breathing problems – especially among people with asthma – as well as increasing the likelihood of developing colds, flu and bronchitis
• Reducing carbon emissions and therefore York’s contribution to global warming.
If you have strong views on any of the proposals outlined above, or on which of them should be top priorities, you can let the council know by means of a dedicated new email address that has been set up especially. Just email your ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org