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Trunk Road A1 in the North Riding of Yorkshire

In the Highways and Bridges Department of the North Riding County Council the construction of roads during the period in question was done very differently to that in the West Riding being largely undertaken by the council's own workforce.

In 1930 the North Riding was divided into four areas each with a Joint Advisory Committee. Each area was put under the supervision of an Area Surveyor and was subdivided into four or five districts each under a District Surveyor. This arrangement under the County Surveyor lasted until the 1974 Local Government re-organisation, with the exception that in 1964 the Borough and Urban Districts also gained representation to Joint Committees.

Under the Trunk Roads Act of 1936 the Great North Road A1, together with other trunk routes, was transferred to the Ministry of Transport. The County Council continued to maintain these roads on an agency basis.

In the same way, two short sections of motorway, constructed in the early 1960's the A1(M) from north of Scotch Corner to its junction with the Darlington to Bishop Auckland Road, A68, in County Durham, and the A66(M) motorway leading to Darlington as far as Blackwell Bridge, became the responsibility of the County Council as agents of the Ministry of Transport.

Since the classification of roads introduced in 1921 by the Ministry of Transport, trunk roads and motorways being added later, "the development of roads in the Riding has depended to a large extent on the grant situation at a given time".

After the war work on improvement schemes was generally restricted throughout the country, but the position was relaxed slightly in the North Riding owing to Teesside being designated a Special Development Area. As a result several improvement schemes, particularly in the north of the county, were carried out in the late 1940's and 1950's. Adequate money was also available for trunk roads since they were principal through routes of the country, and since they were a government charge. But even in this field priority was given to industrial routes such as the A1. Thus a by-pass for Malton, which was subject to heavy seasonal traffic, was never built, but ones for Catterick, Boroughbridge, Leeming and Darlington on the A1 were being planned and stretches of the A1 were being made into dual carriageway. Eventually the North Riding became the first county in England through which the Great North Road, A1 passed to provide dual carriageways on this road throughout the length of the county.

Apart from certain specialised work, e.g. steelwork fabrication, which was sub-contracted, all the construction work was undertaken by the Direct Labour Organisation of the County Council acting as Agent Authority for the Ministry of Transport, to designs prepared in the Department's Head Office."

It was possible over long lengths of the Trunk Road A1 without affecting properties to provide a second carriageway, alongside the existing, but making appropriate alterations to horizontal and vertical alignments to meet minimum visibility requirements for both carriageways.

Most of these schemes were prepared in Head Office using the 1/2500 O.S. Sheets as a basis, but with sufficient additional survey and levelling to determine land take and to design the schemes with the then standards of vertical and horizontal alignment.

Initially, land had been bought and work started on providing dual carriageways north of Baldersby towards Londonderry in 1936/37. Work was suspended during the war years but recommenced in 1946 and continued in stages until 1960.

All these works were carried out using District Labour under the control of the appropriate District Surveyor, depending on the District in which the works were located, Thirsk, Bedale or Richmond."

With increased mechanisation there was a corresponding decrease in the number of highway workmen. From over 2000 employed in the late thirties this number had been reduced to 1000 by 1960 and 740 by 1973.

Closely linked with the maintenance of highways was the building, maintenance and repair of bridges. This had long been the function of Quarter Session, a bridgemaser having been appointed in the late seventeenth century. It was he who was in 1879 appointed County Surveyor and thus made responsible for main roads as well as bridges.

The late 1950's and 1960's were notable for the building of bridges particularly on trunk roads and main roads in connection with by-pass schemes. These included eight bridges on the A1 for the Catterick By-pass, six bridges on the A1 for the Leeming By-pass, and ten bridges on the same road for the Boroughbridge By-pass. Additionally a considerable number of bridges were reconstructed as part of the normal trunk and county road improvement programme all by the county's own workforce.

The highways laboratory started from very humble beginnings in 1958 when sufficient apparatus to undertake the testing of concrete, and bituminous materials was purchased. Soil surveys had previously been undertaken either by the digging of "trial-pits" or, on one or two occasions, by contractors, Durham County Council also undertook soil surveys for a number of schemes until North Riding purchased its own drilling rigs.

It was not until the planning and design of the Catterick By-pass that an aerial survey was used by the County.

To save the time of hard-pressed staff working on both Trunk and County Road Schemes, the surveys for the three by-pass schemes on the A1 were undertaken by BKS Air Surveys of Leigh-on-Sea. Plans to a scale of 40 ft. to 1 in., contoured at 1 ft. intervals with spot levels on all hard surfaces, were produced by the firm, together with 1/2500 scale plans, and all the work proved to be extremely accurate.

The improvement of Trunk Road A1 using the County's own workforce continued into the 1960's. The original design included sufficient width of verge to provide for cycle tracks and footways, but when construction commenced it was felt that there was no need to provide these facilities.

Some heavy excavation work when providing the second carriageway at St Annes Cross, 2 miles north of Leeming Bar, provided suitable material to form the required embankments at Sinderby Bridge in 1956, where an improvement was taking place concurrently. Approximately one mile of dual carriageway was constructed at this point, together with the re-decking of the old bridge carrying the A1 over the railway line and the provision of a new bridge to carry the trunk road over the Masham Road.

Extracts from statements to County Council by the Chairman on the work of the Highways Department show the progress on the improvement of the Great North Road.

For the period 1955 - 1958:

Extensive work on the Great North Road is contemplated by the Minister. Already the County Council, as his agents, have completed new bridges at Sinderby to connect two previously constructed sections of dual carriageway. The County Council have also constructed dual carriageways from the junction of the Burneston road to Londonderry and will by this summer have completed the duplication of carriageways between Leases Hall and Catterick Village. In addition, a short length of dual carriageway has been provided on the A1 road between Scotch Corner and Blue Anchor. A start will be made on the Catterick By-pass (3½ miles in length) in 1958 and dual carriageways will be extended southwards from Baldersby traffic circus to the junction with the road from Dishforth and from the northern end of the Catterick By-pass at Blue Anchor Corner. The cost of these works on the Great North Road exceeds 1¼ million pounds. The Ministry of Transport have informed the County Council that in the next few years they intend to complete the provision of dual carriageways on Trunk Road A1 to construct by-passes round Boroughbridge, Leeming and Darlington (the latter to be a motor road) and to improve the road from Barton to Kneeton corner. Other trunk roads are also to be the subject of major road works, including by-passes at Thirsk and Thornaby.

For the period 1958 - 61:

As the Trunk Roads are the principal through routes of the country, maintenance monies have been more freely available. As to improvement work, one of the limited number of Trunk Roads selected for improvement throughout is the Great North Road, and here considerable progress has been made in the North Riding. With the completion of the Leeming By-pass, now well in hand, there will only remain at the southern end the Boroughbridge By-pass to be done by the North Riding county Council, which is hoped to commence in the Summer of 1961. The work to be carried out by the North Riding County Council on the Great North road would then be complete, for the Darlington By-pass will commence at Kneeton Corner and that work is to be undertaken by the Durham County Council. This has its counterpart at the southern end where the Boroughbridge By-pass within the West Riding is to be undertaken by the North Riding County council. The most outstanding work which has been completed during the period under review was the Catterick By-pass, estimated to cost £1,000,000 and finished at a figure within that amount. The road and bridge works on that By-pass were carried out by direct labour by County council roadmen, and this represents the largest single project ever carried out by any Department of the County council.

Following the provision of a second carriageway throughout the length of the A1, apart from the major by-pass schemes to be described later, work commenced on a whole series of schemes to bring the original single carriageway of the A1 up to more modern standards. The original width of 22 ft. was by that time outdated. The upgrading provided for a 24 ft. wide carriageway and regrading where necessary to achieve vertical visibility requirements.

For the period 1991 to date:

In 1991 a scheme was published to improve the A1 between Dishforth and Leeming to motorway standard. In 1994 Draft Orders under the Highways Act and an Environmental Statement were published. As a result of objections raised revised Draft Orders and a revised Environmental Statement were published in September 1995. Following the 1996 review of the trunk road improvement programme ministers removed the scheme from the National Roads Programme and preparation work ceased. In 1998 "A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England" announced proposals for a study of safety problems on the A1 between Bramham and Barton, which encompassed this scheme. In 2001 the Regional Planning Body endorsed the report recommendations to improve the A1 between Bramham and Barton to motorway standard. Subsequently as part of the announcement to improve the A1 the Minister announced a preferred route for the scheme based on the previous proposals. On the 25th June 2002 the Minister for Transport announced a package of improvements on the A1 which included a scheme to upgrade 22km of the A1 between Dishforth and Leeming to a dual three-lane motorway. At an estimated scheme cost of £125m the scheme will reduce congestion, substantially improve journey times and safety on this heavily used section of the A1.

In September 2002, Atkins were appointed to begin preparatory work for a £225m scheme to upgrade the 38km section of the A1 in North Yorkshire, from Dishforth to Barton to motorway standard. New junctions would be constructed at Baldersby, Leeming, Scotch Corner and Barton. The work will include analysis of present and future traffic flows on this section of the A1, and a detailed review of previous proposals for upgrading the route which date back to 1991. The Highways Agency is looking at ways of speeding up delivery of the scheme including the possibility of appointing a contractor early in the design process. This contractor will prepare the Draft Orders and the Environmental Statement based on his design. Public exhibitions will be held to show the detailed proposals. If any objections are made and remain outstanding it is likely that a Public Inquiry will be held. It is expected that work will start in 2007 for completion in 2009/10.