THE Evening Press today issues an urgent plea to highways bosses: Get York Moving.

The A64 roadworks at Copmanthorpe have led to rush-hour chaos on the dual carriageway and across the city in recent weeks, trapping commuters, shoppers and tourists in major traffic jams and threatening to cost shops and attractions millions in lost business.

The scheme, with its associated single lane contraflows and jams, is currently due to continue until next July, apart from a short respite over Christmas.

That, in the view of this paper and thousands of frustrated motorists, bus passengers, taxi drivers and truckers, is totally unacceptable.

The Highways Agency will tomorrow meet local authority representatives, contractors and consultants to discuss ways of easing the congestion.

We believe it is essential for the agency to make two decisions to get York moving again and complete the works as quickly as possible.

One: It must implement all possible measures to speed up the flow of traffic. In particular, it must if it is physically possible introduce two lanes of traffic in each direction, even if this raises the total cost of the project.

Two: It must introduce round-the-clock working to speed up completion of the scheme, again regardless of the cost. Whatever the extra cost on top of the original £4.1 million budget, it would be money worth spending and peanuts compared to the potential cost to the York economy of nine more months of traffic chaos.

The agency regularly carries out night time work nowadays to avoid causing daytime congestion.

Resurfacing and roadmarking work at Bilbrough Top, just along the A64 from Copmanthorpe, will be carried out next month at night-time. Improvements to Rawcliffe roundabout on the York Outer Ring Road have taken place at night this week to minimise congestion.

Yet the agency's project manager for the scheme, David Phillips, yesterday sought to dismiss the idea of full round-the-clock working at Copmanthorpe.

He said a range of practical problems ruled out night-time work when it involved full re-construction work rather than just re-surfacing. These included health and safety issues involving tired workers, difficulties in getting materials delivered, problems of quality control and environmental disturbance for local residents.

However, he conceded it was possible some more work could be done at night, and indicated that every suggestion could be considered at tomorrow's meeting, including the provision of extra traffic capacity even if it might mean the cost of the scheme going over budget.

Local MPs today threw their weight behind the Evening Press's demands.

Ryedale MP John Greenway said: "The present situation cannot continue. The roadworks have created a huge bottleneck. There has to be some alternative."

His York counterpart Hugh Bayley said: "This is a dangerous junction that needs changing, but the roadworks are bad for business and tourism. So we need an extra lane and need to get the work finished as quickly as possible."

Selby MP John Grogan said more than 50 per cent of his postbag was now about the roadworks and he fully supported the Evening Press's demands. "It cannot go on as it is for another nine months. The economy of York is being put in a stranglehold."

Gillian Cruddas, of York Tourism Bureau, said she would support anything that could be done to reduce the current traffic problems and to reduce the total length of the works. She stressed that next year's tourist season will start many months before the scheduled completion of the works in July.

* The Evening Press intends to lobby tomorrow's crucial meeting in Leeds by presenting those attending with tonight's front page, and will also pass on the results of our phone poll of readers.

EXTRA roadworks will start next week in York.

Resurfacing work will begin in Burton Stone Lane, between Grosvenor Road and Crichton Avenue, on Monday.

A spokesman for City of York Council said: "Work will be carried out at off peak times, mainly on Sundays. Unfortunately, it is essential work."

Road closures will be in place on November 2, 4 and 11. A diversionary route via Bootham, Gillygate, Clarence Street, Wigginton Road and Crichton Avenue will be signposted.

Updated: 10:18 Thursday, October 25, 2001