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A9 Crisis Summit: What interim safety measures are needed on danger road?

By Gavin Musgrove

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Jinty Moffat makes her point on consistency on junction turn-offs. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Jinty Moffat makes her point on consistency on junction turn-offs. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Roadside services, much better lit junctions and simple 60mph and 70mph speed limit signs are just some of the interim safety measures being called for whilst the wait continues for a dualled A9.

There was also a call for more consistency along the road including turn-offs for junctions.

Inverness solicitor Ian Donaldson, who works three days a week in Aviemore, said the lack of facilities on the roadside of the A9 was a causal factor in accidents.

It is a legacy of the A9 bypassed community policy introduced in the 1970s with the new road to safeguard the economy of villages and towns along the route but which was quietly dropped from national planning rules more than a decade ago.

Mr Donaldson said: "Time after time the police officers who were talking to me about these accidents – some of them fatal and some of them not – said that people had been rushing to get to toilets or they had fallen asleep.

"I know why it was done at the time – that rest facilities and toilets were not put in – that they wanted to protect the by-passed communities when the new A9 was built but we have now ended up with a road which is 110 miles long with no roadside facilities.

"It is absolutely crazy to my mind.

"If you took 110 miles south from Glasgow on the M74 and said we are not going to have any roadside facilities then that would be absolutely crazy."

Alison Irvine, interim chief executive of Transport Scotland, said it was 'a really good point' and all part of on-going engagement including with the Road Haulage Association.

She added: "I think there are some real opportunities for us there as we start to roll out the programme and this would be something that we would look to work with communities on."

Laura Hansler, of the A9 Dual Action Group, said: "This is a problem for HGV drivers too. We do need 24 hour services...

"We have articulated lorries pulling into tiny little villages. There is no parking for them. They are actually stopping on the main roads in these villages trying to get to toilets, to run for sandwiches and all the rest of it.

"The knock-on effect is that you end up with a lot of angry locals who can not get up and down their streets.

"It is essential that services are put in and we also speak to road hauliers about this."

She added that there was a 'whole problem' with stacking HGVs on the A9 when there had been an accident too.

"These guys are being left out on the road for 24, 36 hours with absolutely no facilities whatsoever."

Meanwhile Jinty Moffat, a Kingussie resident, told the summit: "Junctions are not consistent – that has to be a starter. Many junctions you go three, two, one but ours in Kingussie has none of this.

"If you have three, two, one on one junction it should be on every junction. It is not big money; it is a sticking plaster but I think it would make a difference."

Ms Hansler had also observed: "The junctions are in a ridiculous state of repair. If you just look from Carrbridge to Ralia – that's a very short section – but the junctions are absolutely dire.

"They are not lit; they are not marked; they are broken – bollards are right over on themselves because they are being hit."

The A9 would need to receive special legal designation to have the clear red circle speed limit signs rather than the traditional black slash on a white circle indicating national speed limits.

Many in the audience pointed out that this had no meaning to overseas drivers.

Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing (SNP) said: "I guess the question is – and this has been raised with Transport Scotland before – why is this not the case on the A9 when we have so many tourists who do not have the slightest idea of what the speed limit is."

He said the only figure they see is the 50mph for the HGV speed limit trail.

"Why do we not have special designation as there is for the Edinburgh peripheral road ­– why does the Highlands not get the same status as Edinburgh?"

Ms Irvine and Transport Secretary Mairi McAllan said they would take these points away for further consideration.

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