HIGHWAYS bosses say their plans to dual the A64 east of York - and tackle a bottleneck which caused motoring misery throughout Easter - are now viewed as ‘low value for money.’

The assessment by Highways England (HE) has been branded ‘completely ludicrous’ by Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, who says he has been told by HE insiders that the scheme is competing with similar ones in the south, including a planned expressway between Oxford and Cambridge.

“Loss of our scheme to a southern-based project would be outrageous and unacceptable,” he said.

Motorists heading to the Yorkshire Coast faced lengthy delays throughout the Easter Bank Holiday weekend as they got stuck at the pinch-point created at the Hopgrove roundabout, where the dual carriageway narrows to a single carriageway.

It emerged in 2017 that four detailed options for dualling a section beyond Hopgrove were being examined by HE, which had concluded that further improvements to the junction alone would fail to deal with congestion problems.

But The Press revealed last month that dualling might be in jeopardy after experts concluded a number of bridges would be needed, pushing up the costs.

Now Elliot Shaw, executive director strategy and planning at HE, has said traffic modelling showed any solution would need to provide some grade separation of junctions and provide bridges for non-motorised users, to avoid safety issues of crossing a much busier corridor.

“Alongside this, further analysis, for example of potential archaeological risk, and knowledge of the utilities that would be impacted, has considerably increased our understanding of the costs, and the benefits.

“At present the scheme is assessed as being low value for money, but we’re planning to start some additional work to try and identify more affordable and better value for money solutions.”

He stressed that no decisions on the scheme and its future funding had yet been taken, but HE remained committed to seeking to identify ‘workable, affordable solutions.’

Mr Hollinrake said the low value definition was ‘clearly nonsense,’ and he was organising a meeting with Mr Shaw and the A64 Growth Partnership, ‘to make sure he fully understands the strength of feeling and economic importance of these improvements.’

He said he had met Transport Secretary Chris Grayling for a second time to discuss the issue.

“He is openly supportive of the need for the dualling and ultimately it will be a political decision,” he said, adding he would continue working with the A64 partnership and fellow MPs Robert Goodwill and Julian Sturdy to ensure the vital investment was secured.