[E]ssential resurfacing works on the A686 at Meathaw Hill between Hartside summit and the Leadgate Junction have been rescheduled to start on Monday 12 March. Works will require the road to be closed for eight days.
In recognition of the significant disruption that the closure will cause, plans are in place to allow convoyed traffic through the closed section of road at set times in the morning and early evening (07.00 to 08.30 and 17.30 to 18.30). Local arrangements have also been made with school transport operators to ensure children are able to attend school and parents/carers will be advised via the County Council School Transport Team and William Howard School. An official diversion route will direct traffic to the south via Penrith, Brough and Middleton through to Alston.
Alternative options to minimise the impact of the closure were considered carefully but regrettably were not appropriate: the road is too narrow to safely allow closure of one carriageway at a time; and night time only working is not an option at this time of year due to the potential for low temperatures which are not suitable for laying road surfacing materials, as well as posing safety risks for workers.
The works will involve 7,439 square metres of resurfacing along a 1.2km length, protecting the road for 20 years. This approach will avoid the need for reactive temporary repairs, additional delays in future, and eventual structural failure on this section of road. Extensive signage, including VMS signs at Carleton and Melmerby, will be in place to forewarn motorists of the closure plans and advise of diversions.
Works have been scheduled to coincide with the closure of Tyne Bridge at Alston by Northern Gas to allow essential upgrading from old metallic mains pipes to new, longer lasting, polyethylene pipes. The bridge will be completely closed for the duration of the Northern Gas works (expected to be two weeks) and there will be no convoy arrangement. Carrying out both schemes at the same time will avoid two separate periods of disruption.
Cllr Keith Little, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “We understand that coming so soon after the closure of the road because of snow, these roadworks will cause further disruption. But it’s important to co-ordinate with the Northern Gas works which will also start on Monday.
“We’ve looked at this scheme carefully to see how we could minimise the impact, but unfortunately because of the location the options are limited. With the convoy system and the arrangement with the school bus we’re making sure people can get on and off the moor at key times and we’ll be making every effort to complete the works quickly. We can’t simply continue to make temporary repairs, so this would have to happen at some point and coordinating with Northern Gas avoids two periods of disruption. I’d like to thank people for their patience while the road is closed.”
Cllr Claire Driver, Local Member for Alston and East Fellside, said: “It has been a tough week on the moor and we still have access problems in some areas but these works do need to be done and there will never be an ideal time. I’ve worked closely with our highways team and stressed how important it is that there is some access through the closure. The convoy system is the best compromise between allowing the work to be completed safely and quickly while also allowing people to travel to work, school or other appointments without taking the inevitably very long diversion route.”