ONE of the biggest studies into easing congestion in Malton and Norton is due to get under way next week.

The £50,000 study will assess more than 70 different potential options to improve traffic flow in the towns.

Jointly funded by Ryedale District Council (RDC) and North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), the study focuses on the town’s level crossing in a bid to cut queues, improve pedestrian access and mitigate the effect of additional rail services from 2019.

Norton county councillor Keane Duncan said while it would be a challenge, he is optimistic the study can improve the situation.

“There is no simple solution to keeping our town moving, but this study gives us the best chance of making sure we are ready to cope with future residential development and additional level crossing closures," he said.

“The scope of this study is massive but at its centre is the level crossing. The crossing remains in the spotlight and continues to divide opinion, but on all sides there is agreement that the junction could, and should, work better. Getting this pinch point right is key to cracking congestion in the towns overall.”

NYCC has appointed consultants WSP to review 72 options and undertake initial feasibility work to enable the proposals to be sifted, packaged and prioritised.

These include new junctions with the A64 at Broughton Road and York Road, along with a south-west link road over the River Derwent, Norton Road one-way system, new pedestrian bridge over the railway, changes to road layout at St Nicholas Street, reconfiguration of train station, barriers and signals and review of on-street parking and current car parks.

Cllr Duncan said: “The study will hopefully provide evidence to support ‘quick’ wins that can be implemented in advance of the new rail services. I will also be pushing for longer-term infrastructure solutions to be identified now so we can start bidding for funding as soon as possible.”

Di Keal, town and district councillor for Norton West, said: "This study has been planned for over a year now and I am delighted to see that something is finally happening that I hope will resolve some of the traffic congestion we have in Norton and Malton.

"Action on Traffic - Malton and Norton has already submitted proposals to the consultation to NYCC which were formulated by local people directly affected by the congestion who drive through the towns daily and we hope that these will be accepted as sensible and cost effective solutions.

"However, our major concern is that the county council is taking a very long time to act on this problem. The solutions are relatively simple, but long drawn out feasibility studies and consultations only lead to delays and there is real concern that the increase in train service will be in place before any practical change takes place.

"Local people want to see action, not more costly studies and consultations, and I would urge the county council to publicly lay out a short timescale and actually get some of its 'quick fix' measures in place as a matter of urgency."

Initial traffic surveys are due to start on January 17. They will inform the identification of options from the 72 option in February, with the options assessment due in April.