Every year tourists flock to the Yorkshire Dales for its outstanding scenery, its river valleys and sweeping uplands, all of which make it a popular destination and picturesque place to live.
However, the locals know all too well that during a heavy downpour the Dales rivers can soon swell to engulf the roads. Abandoned vehicles along the route are often proof of the risk people will take to drive through the floodwater.
To tackle the disruption a new £418,000 flood detection system has been installed at flooding hotspots on the A684 – the first of its kind in North Yorkshire – financed by the government’s Safer Roads Fund.
The A684 is a key route east to west along the length of Wensleydale and on average the stretch of road between Bainbridge and Wensley floods three times a year due to its close proximity to the River Ure.
Before the new system was installed, we relied on members of the public to report any issues before attending the site and manually putting out ‘road closed’ signage.
Local resident Jim McRobert works at Carr’s Billington Agriculture which has a country store in Hawes. They receive regular deliveries from farm machinery to clothing and pet supplies.
“The A684 can flood incredibly quickly and for drivers who don’t know the roads they are minded to carry on their journeys whatever the weather,” said Jim. “The new warning signs will inform delivery drivers of when to stop with real-time information. This will also allow us as employees to re-jig the delivery slots when necessary; ensuring safety as well as saving time.”
Jim is also an official at the Wensleydale Rugby Club so has seen the consequences that heavy rainfall can have for players and fans on match days. He added: “The safety of everybody at the club and our fans is our top priority so anything that will improve a safe journey to and from the ground is very welcome.”
The seven signs were installed by SWARCO Traffic at various locations along the A684 from Bainbridge, Worton, Asygarth, West Witton and Wensley.
The flood detectors in the river contain sensors so when water reaches a certain level the signs display flood warnings. They can also be used to warn of snow, high winds or road closures.
Although the level of the water triggers the activation of the signs, they only illuminate when a vehicle approaches in a bid to keep light pollution to a minimum.
“Flooding in the Yorkshire Dales has been a long-standing problem for the local communities,” said Councillor Karin Sedgwick, member for the Middle Dales. “The diversion route is very lengthy so we see many people taking the risk to cross which is incredibly dangerous and we often see vehicles stranded in the flood water. These new signs will display up-to-date information; saving time and hopefully saving lives.”
Councillor Yvonne Peacock, member for the Upper Dales, said: “When North Yorkshire suffers inclement weather our highways teams are dealing with many problems on the network so having to travel to install temporary signage takes time. I’m pleased we have been able to deliver the scheme through the Safer Roads Fund. This pioneering warning system will serve the communities for generations to come.”
As part of the Safer Roads Fund, safety improvement projects to the sum of £7.06m are being delivered on the A684 from Leeming Bar to Junction 37 of the M6. The Fund seeks to address issues on the 50 A-roads identified as being the most dangerous in the country.