BUSINESS leaders in the region have branded Government plans to introduce piecemeal safety schemes on sections of the A1 and A66 as “ridiculous”.

The Highways Agency has confirmed there are no plans to resurrect its £300m plan to build a motorway on the 12-mile stretch of the A1 between Leeming Bar and Barton in North Yorkshire – or to further proposals to complete a dual carriageway on the A66, on a three-mile stretch west of Scotch Corner.

The agency said it would instead examine ways of improving junctions, signage and visibility, including the Melsonby A66 crossroads, while reviewing A1 junctions such as at Skeeby, near Richmond.

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While the agency insists it made it clear the motorway scheme had been cancelled following a strategic spending review in October 2010, councillors and business leaders said they feared the safety improvement works could set the upgrade back by more than a decade and hit the economy.

At a North Yorkshire County Council meeting yesterday, agency officers were told the incomplete upgrading of the roads was unacceptable.

After the meeting, Councillor Carl Les, who runs Leeming Bar Services, said the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have to decide if pumping funds into roads was a good way of revitalising the economy and that the decision to cancel the upgrades could cost lives.

He said: “We now fear that the upgrade won’t get done for a long time. It’s bad news for safety and businesses, and the only light on the horizon is that the Chancellor will release some money to do some infrastructure work.”

Councillor Michael Heseltine said: “If we were talking about industry we would be talking about mothballing.

“We should never lose sight of the fact that the A1 is the most prominent road between two of Europe’s most important capital cities, London and Edinburgh, while the A66 is the main route from Northern Ireland to the rest of Europe.”

The Northern Echo: Map showing A66 upgrade cancellationsWhile councillors expressed fury that the North-East was being treated like “a poor relation”

to the rest of the country, the North-East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) said it would not accept the situation.

James Ramsbotham, NECC chief executive, said the A1 upgrade was at the top of its transport agenda and it would continue to pressure the Government for the “essential” scheme.

He said: “This is a ridiculous situation, particularly when this region is the greatest exporting region in the country.

“We are not an island in the North-East, but the Highways Agency seems to treat us like one.

What we need is the full continuous schemes.”