Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said York would benefit from major road and rail investments in the coming years.
During an election campaign visit to the city Mr Grayling said that plans to dual sections of the A64, and investment in ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ and HS2 would be a big benefit to the city.
But he didn’t make any commitment to deal with one of York’s biggest congestion problems – the northern outer ring road.
Joined by City of York Council leader David Carr, transport spokesman Ian Gillies, and Conservative candidates Julian Sturdy (York Outer) and Ed Young (York Central), Mr Grayling said: “In terms of strategic transport priorities in the next parliament, the east-west links up in the north are right up at the top of the agenda.”
This included the so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail – the investment in railways linking northern cities including Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester.
New trains would be coming through York on the East Coast Mainline, and “all the Northern Trains are being replaced”.
He contrasted this with plans by the Labour Party to renationalise the railways should they win the election on June 8.
“We are going to be introducing something like 5,000 new train carriages over the coming decade. That’s a £10 billion investment by the private sector.
“It’s the private part of the railways that works well – people getting new trains.
“If the Labour Party gets in and says, ‘we’re taking control of it all’ they’re not going to have £10 billion to spend on trains. They don’t happen and York doesn’t get the improvements.”
York to be served by HS2
He said HS2 trains would come to York, speeding up journey times and freeing up capacity elsewhere on the network.
“York will be served by HS2 trains. They will connect to the East Coast Mainline not too far south of York and come through York.”
Another priority was smart ticketing – where you could “tap in and tap out between York and Harrogate for example”.
“My vision is within a couple of years to have almost eliminated the paper ticket. You’ll still be able to get paper tickets if you want, but you’ll be able to use smartcards and phones. It’ll be much more flexible.”
Julian Sturdy said the congestion on York outer ring road was forcing more drivers “to rat-run” into the city centre.
Mr Carr said money pledged to upgrade the ring road junctions “will go a long way to alleviate that congestion”.
Pressed on the issue, Mr Grayling did not make a firm commitment on funds to upgrade York’s outer ring road.
“Right now we’re preparing for dualling the A64, which has been a huge priority for this area,” he said.
“I am absolutely aware of the situation on the ring road, I think it needs to be dealt with. My one message is you can’t do everything at once.
“If you fill an area with too many roadworks simultaneously you cause chaos. So there’s got to be a rolling programme of improvements to the roads around York.”
Improving air quality
What was he going to do about the often problematic air pollution in York?
“Ultimately the solution to the air quality challenge in a city like York is to have low emission vehicles used around the city, as well as getting more people out of their cars and on to bikes and public transport.”
And he supported the principle of river taxis.
“Where it’s possible to use water transport for local public transport, it’s a very good idea to be supported.”