The Transport Talk column with Don Mackenzie

One of the NYCC's 86 gritting vehicles pictured in action last month.
One of the NYCC's 86 gritting vehicles pictured in action last month.

Let’s hope that we have now seen the back of the snow and ice, which affected most parts of the county during February, and which made a fleeting visit again early on the morning of Thursday 8 March to the Harrogate area in particular.

Here are a few general facts about NYCC’s gritting policy and some specific figures relating to this winter’s activities.

The County Council’s annual gritting budget is £6.5m but we spend more if conditions require it. This year’s expenditure is likely to show a £1m overspend. Elected members generally feel very protective towards this budget.

We have invested in 86 modern gritting vehicles, several snow blowers, and buy in the services of 111 farming contractors to help keep roads open especially in rural areas. Our crews are on call 24 hours a day, typically starting work at 5am.

Our gritting network covers 4,400km, equivalent to 54% of the county’s roads, among the highest percentages of any highways authority in the country. Our gritting teams face the challenge of the highest and most exposed roads anywhere in the country. This winter we have so far used over 70,000 tonnes of salt, about 2,500 tonnes daily during very cold weather.

The NYCC operates a priority system for gritting. P1 routes, including main roads and bus routes, are treated before 7am. P2 routes, including main access roads, are treated by 10am. P3 and other roads, which include smaller rural and most residential estate roads, are generally not gritted unless freezing conditions last for 72 hours. This did mean that many P3 routes were gritted during the recent spell of wintry weather.

Full details of all the County Council’s gritting routes can be found on an interactive map on the NYCC website at: https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/road-gritting-salt-heaps-and-bins

Otley Road transport upgrades

NYCC will keep residents and businesses informed about progress with the £4.6m worth of transport investments in the west of Harrogate, to support current and future housing and jobs growth along the Otley Road corridor.

Planned junction upgrades should reduce delays for vehicles, whilst an off-road cycle path will offer encouragement to drivers to switch to bicycles.

At a recent meeting of the Harrogate Cycle Forum, highways officers described early work on the cycle path, its alignment and the standards by which it will be constructed.

There are no plans to cut down trees or to use Stray land. Step by step progress will be made available to all members of the public by means of a dedicated Otley Road Cycle Path webpage to be launched in a few weeks’ time.

Money for the west of Harrogate upgrades has been secured from the Government’s National Productivity Investment Fund (£3.2m), supplemented by contributions from NYCC, HBC, and developers (total £1.4m) and is available for spending from April 2018 until March 2020.

Digital Infrastructure

The Chancellor confirmed in his Spring Statement last week that NYCC’s bid to the Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund had been successful. Worth £15m, the funding will be used to connect about 400 public sector sites throughout the county, including in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, to full fibre.

Once installed, that infrastructure can then be used by telecoms operators to bring full fibre connections to tens of thousands of households and thousands of businesses. This successful bid and the continued roll out of superfast broadband by the County Council’s company, Superfast North Yorkshire, confirm North Yorkshire’s position as a leading rural authority in the digital economy.

Harrogate Car Share

I remind readers about the lift sharing scheme which is available to join in the Harrogate area. Sharing a vehicle helps to tackle congestion at peak times, and reduces the cost of travel.

Over 1000 users have already listed their journeys, including employees of both NYCC and HBC, and other key local companies. Full details are available at: https://liftshare.com/uk/community/harrogate