ROAD engineers have scotched suggestions that a major new junction on the upgraded A1 could be in doubt.

Catterick central, one of the key features retained from the previous motorway scheme shelved in 1996, is planned to be built midway between the present Catterick north and south junctions.

One of its main benefits would be to remove military traffic from Catterick Village and the congested junction at Catterick Bridge.

Highways Agency engineers attending an exhibition of the proposals at the Scotch Corner Hotel were questioned by one man who said: "There is a rumour that Catterick central is in doubt, that with three interchanges in five miles the agency could look at the possibility of removing one."

But A1 project manager Alan Duckworth replied: "I am not aware that it was ever in doubt."

Present timescales for the 24-mile, £325m project between Dishforth and Barton, envisage the publication of draft motorway orders in November and, if a public inquiry expected next year is successful negotiated, work is scheduled to begin in 2008 with completion in 2011.

The main features of the previous scheme have been retained, but Highways Agency consulting engineer Mike Bloxham said the revived proposals would need 60 fewer hectares of land.

A major new junction with "dumb bell" roundabouts was originally envisaged at Scotch Corner, but this time the Highways Agency is proposing relatively minor changes with the addition of traffic lights on the slip roads. Concerns have been voiced, however, that these could cause tailbacks.

It emerged during the exhibition that pressure is likely to be applied for the Highways Agency to add a local access road west of the A1 between Scotch Corner and Barton.

There are fears that without such a road, diverted traffic would be forced to travel through Middleton Tyas and Melsonby if the motorway were blocked by a serious accident in that section.

The Highways Agency wants to demolish and replace Kneeton Lane bridge, between Scotch Corner and Barton, under which abnormally high loads cannot travel northbound or southbound at present. The diversionary route involves travelling through Melsonby, joining and leaving the A66 and A1 at Scotch Corner and Barton.

Questioned about screening and soundproofing for properties along the route, Mr Bloxham said work would continue on an environmental statement during the summer for publication in November.

The motorway generally follows the route of the existing road, except for a section west of Bainesse Farm at Catterick, associated with a Roman supply station