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Bus gate work at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness looks set to begin before end of year, says Highland Council

By Philip Murray

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The bus gate will enable buses to head into Old Perth Road from Raigmore Hospital more easily.
The bus gate will enable buses to head into Old Perth Road from Raigmore Hospital more easily.

WORK on a controversial bus link through the grounds of Raigmore Hospital looks set to begin before the end of the year.

The creation of a new ‘bus gate’, which will enable public transport services to pass through the hospital grounds from the Raigmore estate has drawn criticism from the likes of NHS Highland in the past. The authority raised safety concerns, citing the route’s proximity to the hospital helipad.

But despite those previous concerns, a through route for buses has long been expected, having previously been a condition attached to the approval of Inverness Campus.

And Highland Council approved plans in August for NHS Highland’s new multi-million pound Elective Care Centre at the campus site, during which the planned Raigmore bus gateway was once again included.

Three options are now being explored for the new bus gate’s exit onto Old Perth Road from within the grounds of Raigmore Hospital.

The option preferred by consultants Mott MacDonald would see a second set of traffic signals erected 50 metres north of the existing junction – and the widening of the hospital’s access road at this point to create a bus lane – to enable passing buses to be given priority when exiting the grounds.

And, although the new report is only making a recommendation at this stage, Highland Council hopes work will get under way before the end of the year.

A spokesman for the council said: “There has been consideration of this issue over a significant period of time, but the delivery team has engaged with NHS, Stagecoach, Hitrans and UHI in a constructive and co-operative manner to undertake a rapid review of options. This work is evaluating all previous options, but has also extended the range of options under consideration – such that a preferred solution that allows early delivery can be established.

“It is recognised by all parties that there are many constraints within the hospital site, not least the emergency helicopter provision, so although there is pressure for early delivery – then careful consideration of the preferred option is vital.

“It is hoped that the selection of the preferred option can be established in October, and construction will follow, hopefully before the end of the year.”

Under the recommended option, buses approaching the lights would trigger the traffic signals, enabling them to proceed onto the busy road without a delay.

The other options mentioned include the creation of a bus slip lane for left turning buses onto Old Perth Road, and the upgrading of the existing Old Perth Road junction.

But the consultants warn that the slip road option would only aid buses turning left, has visibility issues for bus drivers, and the junction might create added confusion for other motorists.

The redesigned Old Perth Road junction option, meanwhile, would reduce the junction’s capacity for other vehicles, risking a bottle-neck, and would also cause disruption to hospital traffic during construction.

David Bedwell, NHS Highland’s interim director of estates, facilities and capital planning, said: “NHS Highland has been working with Highland Council to consider options for improving public transport access to Raigmore Hospital and the environs. NHS Highland supports improving public transport and making it easier for our patients to get to and from Raigmore Hospital. We are assessing potential routes with colleagues at Highland Council to find an option that works for everyone and protects the vital services we deliver for the people of the Highlands.”

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