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'Detailed timetable and plan needed over A9 dualling to avoid repeating past delays,' argue road campaigners

By Philip Murray

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A visualisation of the new 'grade separated' Tomatin Junction which will be upgraded as part of the A9 Dualling Tomatin to Moy project.
A visualisation of the new 'grade separated' Tomatin Junction which will be upgraded as part of the A9 Dualling Tomatin to Moy project.

Delays to dualling of the A9 have not been helped by the Scottish Government's "variable approach to funding" or its historic reluctance to acknowledge the "obvious" that the work was never going to make its original 2025 deadline.

That's the view of the UK's largest independent road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, which has submitted comments to the inquiry into the A9 dualling programme that are due to be discussed in Holyrood next week.

It its submission ahead of Wednesday's meeting of the citizen participation and public petitions committee, the charity has "strongly" backed calls for a revised timetable for the project and a detailed plan for the dualling of each section.

And it has criticised the Scottish Government's past reluctance to acknowledge the likelihood it was going to miss its original 2025 target – even after it became "obvious" – arguing that this further hampered the project by delaying discussions on possible alternative funding options.

It wants greater detail on how the government plans to make its new target of 2035, which was announced by transport secretary Mairi McAllan last month.

IAM RoadSmart's submission said: "It has been clear for years that [the original 2025] target cannot be met and yet the Scottish Government left it until the last minute to confirm the obvious.

"This simply delayed the possibility of further discussion on alternative funding approaches and contractual changes.

"IAM RoadSmart welcome the recent statements form the Scottish Government on the revised timetable, but we do want to see more detail on how this will be achieved including the detailed plan."

It argues that past failures to "expedite" the planning process are also one of the reasons why the initial 2025 deadline was not met.

It added: "It has made no sense to us over the many years of monitoring and commenting on the upgrade of the A9 that a detailed plan has not been published giving a timetable for each section.

"The Scottish Parliament has supported the dualling of the A9 for decades and yet the planning process has not been expedited to deliver the final project.

Local people do of course need to be consulted on the detail of the new road, but the vast majority of the improvements are along the existing line of the A9. It should therefore be possible to amalgamate planning permissions and enquiries to quickly deal with any objections. The need for dualling is widely supported and accepted and the Scottish Government just needs to get a confirmed funding package in place to allow contractors to bid with confidence.

"IAM RoadSmart are not experts on contract design and implementation, but it does seem that the Scottish Government’s variable approach to funding has exacerbated the problem – culminating in the recent issues on the Tomatin section where not enough bids came forward and further delays have occurred."

Elsewhere, the charity added that wider calls for a memorial to those who have died in A9 traffic accidents "is not a top priority" for it "but we would not stand in its way".

However, it added that it feels the "most lasting memorial... would be the construction of a safer road that removed many of the reasons for fatal crashes completely."

It continued: "This is why dualling is so important as it reduces the risk from head on crashes and side impacts at junctions – the least survivable types of collision."

It also called for any memorial's location to be chosen carefully, cautioning that "it is vital that any memorial is located in a safe place that does not encourage illegal or unsafe stopping on the carrigeway".

IAM RoadSmart was formed in March 1956 and has over 75,000 members that supports.

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