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Campaigner says there are ways to improve safety on 'appalling' A9 now

By Scott Maclennan

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The scene of the two-car collision on the A9 near Aviemore on Sunday afternoon.
The scene of the two-car collision on the A9 near Aviemore on Sunday afternoon.

A road safety campaigner has said there is huge scope to massively improve safety at some “appalling” parts of the A9 in the short-term as the Highlands waits for the final dualling date from the Scottish Government this autumn.

Ahead of next week’s Inverness Courier A9 Crisis Summit, solicitor Ian Donaldson, a committee member of the Highland group of the IAM Roadsmart (HIAM) – previously the Institute of Advanced Motorists – for almost 40 years have made a number of suggestions.

His proposals range from more signage and white lines to reduced speed limits at junctions or roundabouts, while also urging the government not to get bogged down in sections that may be difficult to dual.

Over the weekend there were at least two more crashes on the A9 – one left a cyclist in hospital and a lorry driver arrested, the other was at what Mr Donaldson called a “death trap junction” but fortunately there were no casualties.

The SNP admitted in February that completing its vow to dual the Inverness-Perth section of the A9 by 2025 was unachievable. Last year, 13 people died on that stretch – a 20-year high.

Ian Donaldson, from the Highland IAM Roadsmart charity.
Ian Donaldson, from the Highland IAM Roadsmart charity.

Mr Donaldson, of Balloch, has a passionate interest in road safety. "I hold strong views as to what might be done to help improve matters in the short term until dualling is complete," he said.

“At the simple end would be the urgent and proper re-marking and maintaining of road lining at the junctions. It is appalling that the give-way lines are allowed to wear away from the junctions meaning it can be unclear where emerging cars should stop.

“Install far better signage and white lining at accident black spots. Have far more ‘two way’ signs and road arrows. Why on earth is the bend in the Slochd, where there have been several recent fatalities, not double white-lined preventing overtaking?”

He admitted more complicated and expensive options would be to “slow traffic to 40mph or 50mph or going past the junctions. I come out of Aviemore north three days a week. It is scary having cars coming southbound crossing your path at 60mph.

“It’s the same at Ralia and House of Bruar – slow vehicles down on the approach and improve warning signage.”

But it was also important, he argued, to provide proper facilities along the route for all road users: “A major one is to install toilet facilities at regular intervals. It is appalling that this has never been done. Also, install proper rest areas for HGVs.”

Mr Donaldson said people are still “taking their life in their hands” by emerging onto the A9 so “improve sightlines at the junctions. Emerging from Aviemore north and Carrbridge, southbound cars on the A9 are obscured by vehicles turning into the junction.

“I believe that many accidents occur due to emerging vehicles turning right, in front of oncoming vehicles which they have not seen because they have been obscured. Most importantly, get the sightline south at the Ralia junction improved.

“It is appalling that when emerging from Ralia to head south you can only see a few hundred yards along a 60mph road. You take your life in your hands when doing this, and there have been several fatalities at that junction as a result. Again an appalling situation that could be improved fairly easily.”

The big ask, however, would be to “replace the junctions with roundabouts," he said. "I know this was not done at the time of the construction of the A9 due to a policy decision that traffic on the A9 should be kept as free flowing as possible.

“But that has led to these death-trap junctions. Roundabouts might interrupt the traffic flow and increase the journey time slightly but would immediately save the numerous lives that are lost at these junctions.

“It is frankly amazing that a roundabout has not been installed at the Dunkeld/Crieff junction long before now. The delays and danger in emerging from that junction are ludicrous."

He added: "I realise that some sections of the A9 are going to be exceptionally difficult to dual and there is a political commitment to dualling the whole road, so anything less than that would be seen as a climb down, but it would be far better to let these remain as well-signed single carriageway sections – with no overtaking – and dual the rest of the road rather than let these problem sections hold up the rest of the project.”

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