A NEW light rail link would be better than a new road as a solution to traffic congestion in East Middlesbrough, councillors suggested this week.

As a major consultation exercise drew to a close, members of Redcar and Cleveland council executive called for a re-think on the most favoured option.

And they said a government-backed study into a new Light Rapid Transport system could be a better alternative than an East Middlesbrough bypass.

The councillors think the LRT plans could link Guisborough with the centre of Teesside by following the existing Nunthorpe-Middlesbrough rail route, with a new link into Guisborough itself.

Together with Middlesbrough council, Redcar and Cleveland commissioned transport consultants Oscar Faber to assess options for improving services along the so-called East Middlesbrough corridor - including an entirely new road linking Swans Corner with the Longlands roundabout.

Redcar and Cleveland council leader Coun David Walsh said: "We are all highly conscious of the need to relieve congestion on the main roads into Middlesbrough, but we are not entirely sure that building a new road would be the best solution.

"For example, the fact that there would be no junctions on the proposed new road between Swans Corner and the James Cook hospital would result in very little traffic from Marton or Nunthorpe actually being attracted on to the new route."

Following a series of public meetings, Oscar Faber put forward three options for action: do the minimum; the East Middlesbrough bypass; the East Middlesbrough greenway.

The first option would not include any new construction but seek to improve existing corridors with emphasis on helping bus and train passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.

The bypass is the new all-purpose single carriageway.

The greenway would involve an all-purpose road from Swan's Corner to Stainton Way and a route for buses and high occupancy vehicles.

Oscar Faber favours the bypass scheme and is now poised to produce a final report on the issue.

Coun Walsh understood severe reservations had been expressed by bodies such as the National Trust and English Nature which were worried about the impact on the green wedge of the Hambleton Hills north of Nunthorpe and the landscape quality of Ormesby Hall.

"Opposition of that kind would almost certainly mean any new proposed road would be called in by the government for a public inquiry," he said.

"If we add to this the understandable fears of people in the Rothesay Grove area of Nunthorpe, who could be faced with either demolition of their homes or the impact of a major road running nearby, we feel there is no guarantee that funding for the new road would be immediately forthcoming."

Coun Walsh said that given the government had already announced its backing for a new study into the concept of an LRT system for the Tees Valley, councillors felt the investigation should focus on the East Middlesbrough corridor as a prime candidate for a modern, high-speed public transport system which could remove the congestion problem at source - by attracting motorists out of their cars in the first place.

"A new LRT route running from Guisborough to Middlesbrough and possibly onwards to Stockton and the Teesdale business park, could, we believe, achieve this and we will be asking the government for funds and backing for this study which can then be compared with any road scheme."