Kex Gill re-alignment secures final Government go-ahead

This story was published 23 February 2023

A multi-million pound scheme to secure the future of a key east-west route is set to begin after the hugely ambitious project has been given the go-ahead by the Government.

A group at Kex Gill

The long-awaited initiative to create a new stretch of the A59 at Kex Gill has received the Government’s final seal of approval, with construction set to begin in April.

Kex Gill, which is situated between Skipton and Blubberhouses, near Harrogate, has a history of landslips, and the route has had to be closed a total of 12 times in the past 22 years.

The unplanned closures have caused significant disruption for users of the A59 as well as the surrounding towns and villages and have proved to be damaging for businesses and local farmers.

A new four kilometre stretch of road is set to be created, replacing an existing part of the A59 which has been affected by the landslips.

Executive member for highways and transport, Cllr Keane Duncan, said: “The Government’s final go-ahead is a landmark moment after seven years of hard work, and means we will be able to embark on construction.

“The re-alignment of Kex Gill is undoubtedly one of the council’s most ambitious and most expensive ever highways projects.

“The A59 is a key east-west connection of national significance so it is vitally important that we secure the availability and safety of this route for our residents as well as visitor and commercial traffic.

“We are committed to completing the scheme as quickly as possible and in the most cost-effective way.”

We appointed engineering company John Sisk & Son (Holdings) Ltd for the £68.8m project in September and have since been waiting for the Department for Transport (DfT) to approve the scheme’s Full Business Case.

Kex Gill is the first project under the Department for Transport (DfT) Major Roads Networks upgrade fund to gain Full Business Case approval. The wider fund contains 88 highways projects nationwide totalling £3.5 billion.

Roads minister Richard Holden MP met with representatives from ourselves and Transport for the North at Kex Gill today (23 February) to discuss this vital upgrade.

Richard Holden said: "Making journeys safer, faster and more reliable for motorists to reduce travel times and help grow the economy is vital.

"The new route at Kex Gill will benefit businesses across the North of England and local towns and villages nearby by boosting economic growth, enhancing connectivity and putting an end to disruptive road closures.

"Investing in projects like this to provide long-term improvements shows how the Government is committed to levelling up transport links with long-term sustainable solutions.”

Contractors moved on site earlier this month to clear the moorland to avoid the bird-nesting season. An estimated completion date for the work has been set for May 2025.

A total of £68.8m has been allocated to the project, with the Department for Transport (DfT) providing grant funding of £56.1m. The remaining £12.7m has been allocated from our capital reserves.

John Sisk & Son was key in the delivery of the Royal Artillery Barracks shooting venues for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Crossrail's largest tunnelling scheme was also awarded as a joint venture between John Sisk & Son and Dragados. It was responsible for the construction of 23km twin bore tunnels running from Victoria Dock in the east to the new Crossrail Farrington station in Central London.

Cllr Nathan Hull, who represents the Washburn and Birstwith division, said: “This will be very welcome news to the travelling public and local community, and I can’t wait to see construction start on site. The re-aligned route promises to be safe and reliable for generations to come.”

The A59 provides a vital east-west connection in North Yorkshire, linking Harrogate and Skipton and running across the North of England between junction 31 of the M6 and junction 47 of the A1(M). 

Detailed work began in 2016 on developing options to address the issue of landslips and instability on the stretch of road at Kex Gill. 

A total of 16 options were drawn up, and following extensive consultations with the public, the plans to re-align the road garnered overwhelming support with 90 per cent of respondents stating that the project needed to be carried out.

The preferred route, which was agreed by the county council’s executive in July 2018, was established following wide-ranging survey work to minimise the effects on the environment, as well as the impact on local communities and landowners.

The stretch of the A59 at Kex Gill runs through important habitats including a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Plans are in place to mitigate the impact on wildlife in the area such as barn owls, bats, nightjars, wild game, toads and badgers.

A section of the existing stretch of road will be retained for access to the gamekeeper’s house and as a bridleway. It will be downgraded to single width with passing places. The remaining section of the old A59 will be returned to grassland and heather.