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Thousands calling for A9 dualling action now

By Tom Ramage

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A Badenoch mother petitioning for an end to hold-ups in the A9 dualling has told the Strathy that she has taken up the fight after hearing the 'horrific' accounts from bereaved families wanting her to campaign for them.

Laura Hansler, one of the administrators of the 3300-strong A9 Dual Action Group, has received blanket national and local radio and TV coverage from her Kincraig home.

Room for improvement: the A9 needs dualling now, say campaigners. Picture: Sandrone
Room for improvement: the A9 needs dualling now, say campaigners. Picture: Sandrone

A petition she and fellow campaigners have lodged at Holyrood has now attracted more than 3000 signatures in its first few days.

Mrs Hansler, who administers the group with Chris Cade, of Invergordon, was approached because an earlier fight which rallied strong support.

The retired NHS cardiac rehabilitation manager fought to keep the Inverness Fire Service control centre open when it came under threat.

She told the 'Strathy': "This week's A9 dualling coverage has led to more than 150,000 hits on our news page and this is only the beginning.

Mrs Hansler on the A9 to promote Dual Group's petition
Mrs Hansler on the A9 to promote Dual Group's petition

"In the worst year for two decades on that road, innocent people have lost their lives going about their daily business; individuals have been left without their partners; children without their parents, siblings and grandparents.

"I am absolutely determined that none of these deaths becomes some bloody statistic locked away in a file – I'm just not having it."

The campaign launched earlier this week on the Scottish Parliament petitions page urges Ministers to deliver on their A9 commitment.

Organisers are calling for:

Publication of a revised timetable and detailed plan for dualling each section;

Completion of the dualling work by 2025; and

Creating a memorial to those who have lost their lives in road traffic incidents on the A9.

Hot off the press: the dual group's flyers ready for distribution
Hot off the press: the dual group's flyers ready for distribution

Mrs Hansler said: "The A9 has now become a road barely fit for purpose with an unsustainable influx of traffic on the infrastructure.

So far 13 people have lost their lives on the 112-mile section of the A9 between Inverness and Perth this year – a dozen of them within Badenoch and Strathspey.

The huge rise in fatalities follows a relatively quiet time on the road with just three death per year on average following the introduction of average speed cameras eight years ago.

A recent Freedom of Information request by the Strathy revealed a significant fall in speeding detections and fines issued since the start of year compared to the three previous years.

The Scottish Government pledged as a 'priority' in 2011to dual the A9 between Perth to Inverness in its entirety by 2025.

Since then, according to Transport Scotland figures, 59 people have lost their lives on this section of the road.

Campaigners are concerned that, more than 10 years after being labelled a priority, 'it is looking increasingly likely that Holyrood will fail to deliver on their commitment' by the deadline.

Mrs Hansler claimed: "Nothing's happening! A civil engineer told us yesterday that it takes at least two years for each section to be done and we have only got two of the 11 sections done, all with different tenders.

"It just riles me – and a lot of other people too. The numbers are growing all the time. The petition has raised thousands of signatures in just a few days."

Several bereaved families have joined the group, she said: "They let me know how the events had unfolded for them and it was quite horrific hearing it all first hand. We have to get things moving now."

Mrs Hansler said the mix of single, two plus one and dual carriageway between Inverness and Perth confused some drivers, and heightens the risk of collisions.

The A9 Dual Action Group will be collecting signatures until December 28 – only a maximum of four weeks is allowed.

According to the A9 Safety Group, whose members include BEAR Scotland, Police Scotland and Highland Council, 77 per cent of all fatal and serious accidents took place on single carriageways.

A network of average speed cameras was introduced in October 2014 in an effort to reduce casualty numbers while work continued on the dualling programme. The project includes a trial 50mph for HGVs to reduce tailbacks and frustrations for other motorists.

A link to the petition ‘PE1992: Dual the A9 and improve road safety’ is at: https://petitions.parliament.scot/petitions/PE199

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