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A high-level Inverness bypass bridge is simply pie in the sky

By Andrew Dixon

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Inverness Bypass - Option Seven
Inverness Bypass - Option Seven

A SPECTACULAR bridge carrying the Inverness bypass over the River Ness and Caledonian Canal is unlikely ever to be built, despite the option being added to a major consultation exercise launched this week.

The bridge would link Dores Road with the A82 at Torvean Quarry and avoid any loss of land at Whin Park or the nearby rugby pitches.

Early indications suggest this is by far the most popular of eight options put out to consultation by Highland Council, with 85.3 per cent of respondents to a poll on The Inverness Courier website favouring it.

But council officials admit it is currently unaffordable. They also insist that the public’s views will not dictate the final route of the road, despite people being asked to indicate their preferred choice.

“They will not have the last word on the selection,” said Sam MacNaughton, the council’s head of transport and infrastructure. “It’s not really about their selection, it’s about their personal reasons of why particular options are favoured by them.”

Jimmy Smith, the local authority’s principal engineer, explained the aim was to construct the western end of the bypass in phases, making it easier to fund. The high level bridge — option seven in the consultation — is the only proposal that does not lend itself to this approach.

“In respect of cash flow we are seeking to reduce the demand for cash by spreading the cost over a longer period by splitting the project into phases,” said Mr Smith.

“The main element of option seven, the link from Dores Roundabout to the A82, is a substantial cost and this cannot be split and subdivided.”

Costing about £60 million, the high-level bridge is ranked by the council as the most environmentally damaging option alongside a tunnel under the canal, which is estimated at £75.5 million.

The council currently has £22.5 million allocated to the project.

The high bridge and tunnel were added to the six-week consultation after the original route options, which all cost about £30 million, attracted strong criticism.

Asked if the inclusion of apparently unaffordable schemes gave false hope, Inverness provost Jimmy Gray said: “It’s one of those situations where you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. People asked us to put it in so we put it in.”

Councillors will decide the final route before local elections next May.

> See The Inverness Courier on Tuesday for an analysis of all eight options.

> You can participate in the public consultation by clicking here to get to the Highland Council’s website.

Related articles:

> Inverness bypass route options

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