Excavations began this week on the A19 between Chapel Haddlesey and Wand Lane at Eggborough as work moves forward to reconstruct the road after major storm damage earlier this year.
North Yorkshire County Council’s contractor, Balfour Beatty, began planing the old road surface last week before moving earthworks equipment, heavy plant and machinery onto the site this week.
The stretch of road closed in February following its collapse because of erosion resulting from Storm Dennis.
James Malcolm, highways area manager, explained the task facing the County Council.
He said: “As a principal road, the A19 has regular inspections, which found it to be structurally sound before the collapse. However, following significant rainfall resulting in high water levels over a prolonged period, accompanied by high winds that led to almost tidal-like erosion, the road suffered catastrophic damage and had to be closed to traffic.
“This section of the A19 is effectively a causeway, a road on top of a man-made embankment through which run five small bridges or culverts to allow water to pass back and forth, so the job we’re undertaking is not simply a matter of repairing the road.
“We understand how inconvenient the closure is for many communities. Normally, preparation for a project of this scale would be made while the road was still open, but the damage means this has not been possible in this case.
“A significant issue is that the scale of the damage is unknown. We know there is substantial damage at a significant depth below the surface of the road, but only excavation will reveal its full extent.”
Restrictions put in place to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic also hampered progress, and in June important BT and gas services were identified near the road and embankment. This required BT and Northern Gas Network to create major diversions for their utilities. This work is now complete.
These issues meant the contractor needed to reassess the completion date for the nine-month project. The completion date has now been confirmed as 25 June next year. This includes an allowance if some unknown risks are encountered, so the County Council is optimistic that it will be able to open the road to traffic before that date.
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, explained that the design of the repair and the method of working took into account the risk of further storms.
He said: “The design of the reconstruction addresses the risk of future flood damage by protecting the new embankment with a rock wall. In addition, the contractor has adopted a working method that means the newly constructed sections will be self-protecting in the event of further flooding during construction. However, a major flood during reconstruction would be likely to delay the work.
“We understand that communication with communities is crucial. Since the closure, we have issued regular media updates and county councillors for the areas directly affected have been kept informed. As work progresses, regular updates will be published on social media, issued to the media and posted on noticeboards at each end of the closure.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience and disruption the closure of the A19 has caused. We and our contractors are fully committed to reopening the road as soon as possible.”
While the work goes on and the road is closed, diversions will remain in place and drivers are urged to follow the signed routes.
James Malcolm said: “Signed diversions must follow a road of the same category or higher, so that is the case with the three signed A19 diversions. We know other local routes are available, but these are not publicised because they are not built to carry the same weight or volume of traffic.
“To deter motorists from using the roads through villages, the highway team is looking at additional signage. However, it is usually people with local knowledge who choose to use these roads as a short cut to avoid the signed diversion.
“We have asked the police to monitor certain locations for speeding, but anyone with concerns can submit a speed report to North Yorkshire Police.”