The Transport Talk column with Don MacKenzie

Volunteers recently replaced a gate on a public footpath through farmland near Leathley.
Volunteers recently replaced a gate on a public footpath through farmland near Leathley.

This column did not appear in April ahead of the County Council elections. It is good to be back this month.

My portfolio as member of the new Executive at North Yorkshire County Council (which now includes my Harrogate colleague, Michael Harrison, who has taken on the challenge of Health and Adult Services) remains as it was before, with the addition of rail infrastructure.

This addition to my portfolio by council leader, Carl Les, is timely in view of the planned upgrades to the Harrogate Rail Line between Knaresborough and York.

Most of this section is single track, with very limited lengths of double track where trains can pass one another.

This restricts speed and frequency of the service.

Look out for announcements soon about planned improvements.

Harrogate’s rail services were discussed at the latest meeting of the Harrogate District Chamber, which I attended alongside NYCC Corporate Director, David Bowe.

We provided support to a presentation by Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member Graham Swift and officers of the Economic Development Team on growth proposals for the borough.

Transport infrastructure investment is a vital part of the growth options, which include new, high-quality employment sites and increased residential development.

Reference was also made to improvements to east-west connectivity on the A59: diverting the road away from the landslip-prone Kex Gill, taking it out of the town centre in Harrogate, and upgrading its junction with the A1M (J47) near Flaxby.

In my column article in January, I gave notice of the County Council’s intention to introduce a Permit Scheme for utility companies to work on the highways.

Consultation on this proposal is now underway and open to all, and details can be found here:

Currently, utility companies such as gas, electric, water and telecoms simply notify the County of the work they wish to carry out.

There is limited control over timing and speed of completion.

Under the planned new scheme, permits will have to be applied and paid for.

The charge will depend on the nature of the work.

There will be penalties for working without a permit and breaching the conditions.

The scheme will allow the County Council to manage its highways better, ensuring that works are carried out with minimal delays to drivers because of lane closures.

As one consultation starts, so another has just finished.

This concerns the management and maintenance of public rights of way within North Yorkshire.

We have one of the longest networks in the country at 4,000 miles, including footpaths, bridleways and other routes open to the public.