THE huge project to upgrade a 12-mile chunk of the Great North Road to motorway standards has moved a step closer to completion.

The Highways Agency has finished work on the northbound section between Baldersby and Gatenby - some 6.1 miles.

All roadworks, including cones and the 50mph speed restriction, have now been removed and the section fully opened as a motorway.

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The Agency is now working to fully open the remaining sections to traffic and that should happen before the end of the month.

Northbound between Gatenby and Leeming should fully open on March 28, and the final section, southbound from Leeming to Baldersby, will fully open on March 31.

Following completion of the section between Dishforth and Baldersby last October, it will mean the full £318 upgrade, which began in March 2009, will be finished.

Roads Minister Mike Penning said: “The completion of work along the A1 between Dishforth and Leeming will be a significant milestone in our plans to improve one of the key transport routes in the north of England.

“Upgrading this section of the A1 to a motorway will improve safety, reduce congestion and make journey times more reliable – this can only be good news for road users and the economy.”

He added: “I am delighted that the scheme is nearing completion and that it will be delivered on time and under budget.”

Highways Agency project manager David Brindle added: “Opening these sections is especially good news for motorists at this time of year as the new road will reduce journey times and benefit drivers ahead of and during the Easter getaway.”