WORK to modernise Norton’s gas distribution network is ahead of schedule.

A £150,000 investment project to replace 700 metres of ageing metal gas mains in the town with modern plastic equivalents is running ahead of time.

The gas mains upgrade is being carried out by Northern Gas Networks, the North of England’s gas distributor.

Peter Knapton, site manager for Northern Gas Networks, said: “We never enjoy having to close lanes and divert traffic, but in this case it has helped us work quickly. The end is in sight.

“By the middle of next week we should be able to remove all lane closures, traffic lights and diversions and return Commercial Street to normal.

“That will leave us with just around 70m of pipe left to replace, all of which is located entirely within parking bays.

“We’ll be carrying out this section of the project by inserting new plastic pipe inside the old metal one, so there’s less digging involved, which minimises disruption for everyone.

“This has been a challenging project on busy main shopping streets, so we’d like to thank everyone for their continued patience.”

Ryedale District and Norton Town Councillor Di Keal said it was vital the work was completed as soon as possible.

“This prolonged period of roadworks has been very disruptive for Norton, with even worse traffic congestion and damage to our local businesses,” she said.

“The diversions put in place by the county council have been poorly signed and not enforced properly and local residents are suffering the consequences of long queues of traffic.

“The situation in St Nicholas Street is even worse and people have faced queues all day, including trucks and buses far too big to negotiate the road safely, and speeding motorists when the traffic clears in the evenings.”

Cllr Keal said: “No-one can understand why the diversion via the A64 has not been enforced, especially for larger vehicles.

“Rumour has it that further roadworks are planned following the current ones and, if this is the case, we need to ensure that whatever work is planned

is halted until after the Christmas period so that local businesses don’t suffer.

“Everyone appreciates that these are essential works, but they need to be completed as quickly as possible.”

Richard Marr, highways area manager, said: “Our involvement in this work by Northern Gas Networks is in approving the diversion route.

“Responsibility for signage rests with Northern Gas Networks’ contractor.

“The signed diversion is via the A64 and it is the responsibility of drivers to respect the rules of the road and drive on the routes indicated by the signs.”