A NEW effort has been launched to tackle the continuing congestion problem caused by the railway level crossings in North Yorkshire’s county town.

Senior officials have agreed to investigate all the options as they attempt to alleviate the growing issue facing motorists as rail traffic passes through Northallerton.

All three crossings contribute to the problem – which is widely expected to get worse with the growth of both rail freight and the town’s population.

Long queues are a daily sight with road traffic grinding to a halt when the barriers are down. Low Gates, at the north of the town, is the worst offender. Waits of 20 minutes or more are not uncommon.

In the face of growing anger, local Tory MP Rishi Sunak called a summit which was attended by senior executives from Network Rail as well as officials from the county, district and town councils.

A number of possible solutions to the problems at Low Gates have been suggested. They include a bridge, an underpass and moving the Teesside rail line so that it joins the East Coast main line north of the town.

“Everyone agreed that it is the right time to consider this issue which has not been looked at in a formal way for many years,” said Mr Sunak.

“We know that the level of freight and rail traffic is going to increase over time so there is a need to initiate the planning process. We also know there is no easy or cheap solution but we have to make a start somewhere.”

Hambleton’s executive director Mick Jewitt said the North Northallerton housing development with its bridge and link road between the Darlington and Stokesley roads would provide an alternative route into and through the town centre for traffic.

However, he said it was not solution to the problem and road traffic would grow on all routes as the town developed.

County council leader Carl Les said: “There are opportunities coming forward that may help us deliver complex and expensive solutions that could support long term sustainable development.”

Network Rail area director Mark Tarry said: “This was a positive initial meeting and while there are no quick fixes to be done in Northallerton we are prepared to look at all suggestions in a bid to improve the situation.”