TENS of thousands of motorists have been dealt a blow after transport bosses decided not to approve a £42 million scheme aimed at beating congestion on York’s outer ring road.

The Regional Transport Board, which comprises representatives of local authority organisations and transport professionals, has put the project on a reserve list, which will be addressed as and when funding becomes available.

City of York Council’s transport chief, Coun Steve Galloway, said that the chances of the city securing the cash in the future would depend on the Government giving a “significant increase” in funding to the region.

The money would have been used to enhance the junctions on the section of the bypass between Wetherby Road and Strensall in a bid to improve safety.

Coun Galloway said it would have financed much larger roundabouts with more lanes on the approach to them. He said the capital would have also funded separate facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, such as cycle paths, underpasses and possibly pedestrian bridges. In addition, as part of the package, a type of priority traffic lights system which would have made it easier for buses to get across the junctions, could have been introduced. “The news about the ring road improvements is disappointing, although, unlike most schemes proposed in the region, we know that the scheme has been kept alive with its addition to a reserve list,” Coun Galloway said. “The underlying problem remains that the Government grossly underfunds improvements for transport systems in Yorkshire. We are very much the poor cousins when compared to the enormous sums provided for the South-east.

“We will now have to reflect on how to make the best use of the funding that we do have available.”

Meanwhile, the Regional Transport Board re-endorsed the proposals to provide three new park and ride sites in York – at Askham Bar, on the A59 at Poppleton, and in Wigginton Road – and upgrade the A59/A1237 roundabout, allocating £25 million for the plans.

Coun Galloway said that consultation on the design of the park and ride sites would start in the spring. He said that, in an attempt to improve traffic flows, the A59/A1237 roundabout would be redesigned, which would involve either an underpass, or a bridge to get cyclists and pedestrians over the ring road.

Coun Galloway said York could also gain nearly £1 million a year for the next three years to spend on local transport initiatives, such as the provision of a rising bollard near the proposed Germany Beck 700-home scheme, in Fulford, in advance of the development. The measure would significantly improve bus times in Fulford Road. Alternatively, that money could be used to supplement the outer ring road project, he said.

Dismay, but ‘we need to keep pushing’

BUSINESS and political chiefs in York today spoke of their disappointment that the city’s bid for £42 million to improve the outer ring road had not been approved.

Susie Cawood, York head of the Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said it was “not good news” for the business community or the city.

“I think anything that can improve the outer ring road, particularly at peak times, is going to be beneficial for us,” she said.

“So we would strongly urge whoever is in control of the pot of money to reconsider giving it to us, because I think the outer ring road at the moment can be prohibitive for us. Because of what it’s like at peak times, getting to Clifton Moor and getting on to the A59 isn’t good.” Coun David Scott, leader of the Labour group on City of York Council, said: “It is disappointing for York. We must examine, to some extent, why we failed to get on to the main list, and whether there were any deficiencies in our application, or whether it was just that there were better applications out there, or ones that they thought could be accomplished more easily.

“We need to keep pushing this, so that should some of the projects that are listed now not proceed, then we could be high on that reserve to be able to accomplish the targets that we’ve set for ourselves.”

Coun Ian Gillies, whose York Conservative group favours dualling as a solution to congestion on the ring road, said he was “particularly disappointed” that the project had not been endorsed for funding. “It was always going to be somewhat of a halfway house, because the only real solution is to dual the northern ring road, and that will remain our policy,” he said. “Nevertheless, it’s disappointing that it’s been turned down.”

Meanwhile, Andy D’Agorne, leader of the York Green Party, said he hoped the extra cash the board had approved for York would bring forward work to improve bus journey times into the city on the A19 from the south. “Relatively small sums of money to improve sustainable travel in the city can both improve journey times and cut congestion without adding to pollution and congestion,” he said.

Commuter halt for Haxby gets go-ahead at last

THE dream of introducing a railway station in Haxby is set to become reality, after the Regional Transport Board approved £7.54 million of funding that will pay for the scheme.

The station, which is expected to open in January 2013, will mean passengers will be able to travel by train from Haxby, which has the York-Scarborough line running through it, in the direction of either York or Scarborough.

Coun Galloway said a lot of the cash would be spent on improving the track, rather than on creating the station itself.

City Councillor Chris Hogg, who represents Haxby & Wigginton ward, said: “It’s been a long, long time coming, it really has. I’m really pleased.

“But we have fought for it for many, many years, since 1993 and before that.

“I spoke about it when I joined North Yorkshire County Council in 1993, representing Haxby, and we’ve had setback after setback, but this is brilliant news. It’s opened up Haxby to the UK rail network.”

Forum ‘lobbied against project’

COUN Galloway claimed York Environment Forum lobbied the Regional Transport Board against the ring road improvements, having failed to express a view when the bid was approved by the council in September.

“It is very unfortunate,” he said. “It is difficult to assess what effect this had on the scheme’s chances, but the message for the future is clear: the city needs to speak with one voice if it is to secure the investment that our transport system needs.”

The forum aims to ensure that policies implemented by the local authority and other agencies are in the best environmental interests of the city, and supports sustainability strategies.

Member Philip Crowe said: “What we were concerned about was the possibility that there may be options for further discussion on the details of the bid, should it be taken forward. And we felt because there hadn’t been detailed consultation before the bid was submitted, because of the short time scale, that this was a reasonable request.

“To interpret this as a wish to obstruct the process of the bid is to misunderstand the position of the forum.

“We cannot believe that any contact with the regional transport board could have had any influence at all on the decisions that they made.”