MOTORISTS who try to avoid roadwork congestion on the A64 by rat-running along country lanes will be swiftly halted in their tracks.

The Highways Agency says traffic orders will be in place when work starts on construction of a flyover at Bilbrough Top next month, which can be applied at short notice to prevent traffic leaving the A64 if rat-running problems arise.

The £11 million scheme, which will involve closing a gap in the central reservation that has been implicated in many serious accidents, is due to start in January.

Local residents raise concerns that there could be a repeat of the problems suffered a couple of years ago during major roadworks at Copmanthorpe, when many rat running motorists caused traffic chaos particularly in Bilbrough.

The agency stressed today that it had stipulated in its contract that two lanes of traffic must be maintained on both carriageways during peak hours.

"This should ensure that we can avoid any major congestion at the site," said a spokeswoman.

"However, we have listened to local concerns about the possibility of rat running by traffic trying to avoid the roadworks and, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities, we will have traffic orders in place which can be applied at short notice on local roads in the area to reduce the potential for traffic leaving the A64." She said that City of York Council, the relevant roads authority, was also considering possible solutions if rat running developed along the local road between Copmanthorpe and Colton, following closure of the Bilbrough Top gap.

The spokeswoman said that contractors were now on site carrying out early preparatory work, and plans were in hand to close the gap within the next few weeks.

"Arrangements are being made to advertise official details of the closure and diversion signs are being manufactured. The gap will close when all these details are in place."

Local Selby District councillor Brian Percival has said that if the gap can be closed before the main flyover scheme begins, the agency should have closed the gap much earlier on safety grounds.

The Government's decision to press ahead with the flyover and closure of the gap followed a lengthy Evening Press campaign for the measures, following a number of accidents including two fatal crashes involving vehicles passing through the gap.

Updated: 08:38 Tuesday, December 02, 2003