YORK’S biggest bus operator and opposition councillors have raised concerns about proposals to reduce the Leeman Road tunnel to a single lane for vehicles.

The Press revealed on Monday how traffic lights were set to be installed to ensure vehicles only flowed through the tunnel, dubbed Marble Arch, in one direction at a time.

The proposals, part of the massive York Central development, involved the other lane being turned into a two-way cycle track.

Asked for his response to the plan, Marc Bichtemann, managing director of First York, told The Press he was concerned about the "potential impact of this updated proposal and we’d welcome further consultation on this". He declined to expand on his fears.

John Bibby, of York Bus Forum, said it welcomed the safe cycle lane but was concerned about long traffic queues that would result and the consequences for public transport. “To reduce congestion and pollution, it will be necessary to limit Marble Arch to buses and other priority vehicles for at least part of the day,” he claimed.

Tory York council leader Ian Gillies said one of the challenges of the "awkward" York Central site, which is entirely surrounded by railway lines, was how to ensure it "connected appropriately and sensitively to the wider city".

He said the York Central Partnership had developed proposals after extensive engagement, which revealed support for segregating cycling and pedestrians from cars.

“As the planning and highways authority, we will consider the options and the proposals will of course be subject to a detailed planning application later in the year,” he added.

Green group leader Andy D’Agorne said he "very much welcomed" the proposed "dutch style" cycle track to safely cater for a likely increase in pedestrian and cycle use.

“However the Green Party has stressed the need for York Central to be a ‘low car’ development with high quality bus priority services to avoid increasing congestion,” he said. “Maintaining peak time general traffic via the new road and under the tunnel will not achieve this."

Holgate Labour councillor Kallum Taylor said such proposals would only work if they were joined up with other ambitious changes across the whole city, rather than being done in isolation. “There’s nothing green about pushing problems elsewhere,” he said.

“The council’s executive need to step up within the York Central Partnership, and stop them treating the development as if it exists in its own distant universe. If they don’t, it will be a hugely missed opportunity and leave a bitter taste in the mouth for surrounding communities.”