Did Transport Scotland really expect to complete 85% of the A9 between 2024 and 2025?
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The original A9 dualling timeline indicates that several sections between two areas would have seen work completed almost simultaneously in the strongest hint yet how Transport Scotland might have made the 2025 deadline.
The fresh information emerged this week at the launch of Holyrood’s petitions committee inquiry into why the Scottish Government failed to make its own deadline to complete the dualling programme.
The first witness was Alex Neil, the former cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, who oversaw the initial implementation of the dualling programme until September 2012.
He revealed the original timeline that he requested and subsequently revisited by reviewing his old ministerial files from the time in preparation for his evidence session.
One paper showed the expected completion dates “bit by bit” – information that indicates the exact year when things started to be delayed – which Mr Neil then relayed to the committee.
'Bit by bit' timeline
The first section to be completed and the only one on time ran from Kincraig to Dalraddy, which opened in September of 2017, amid a flurry of ground inspections and other works in the previous 12 months.
The next section earmarked for completion was Luncarty to Birnam which was due in 2018/19 but it only opened in August 2021 – the same year the Tomatin to Moy was due to open.
The next part of the road Mr Neil referred to was Birnam to Ballinluig which incorporates two sections – the Pass of Birnam to Tay Crossing and A9 Tay Crossing to Ballinluig sections totalling 18.4km and scheduled for opening in 2024.
After that it was Killiecrankie to Glen Garry (also 2024) and Glen Garry to Crubenmore (2024 again) and that also involved multiple sections – Glen Garry to Dalwhinnie and Dalwhinnie to Crubenmore – totalling 42.5km.
Furthermore Crubenmore to Kincraig and Dalraddy to Slochd were both also earmarked for a 2025 completion date – they totalled 49km of road.
Taken together, that means Transport Scotland intended to complete the dualling of the majority of the A9 with 24 months or less between 2024 and 2025 – in all that is just under 110 km or 68 miles.
In short – 85 per cent of the work would have likely been to be started and completed within the last half decade.
The quickest way? In two or three sections
In June, Grahame Barn, the chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) Scotland discussed what a future dualling programme could look like.
In doing so he recognised that the fast way of doing it would be almost exactly as laid out in that original Transport Scotland timeline.
“If you are looking to get it done the quickest way, then it could be done in two or three sections,” Mr Barn said.
“That would be the quickest way but it would be absolutely terrible to drive between Perth and Inverness, Inverness may be cut off for some time but that would be the quickest way.
“How you fund that is another challenge around this because that could be £4 billion worth of work to be done.”
The former timeline
The timings Mr Neil referred to were as follows:
- Kincraig to Dalraddy – 2017 (completed in September 2017)
- Luncarty to Birnam – 2018/19 (completed in August 2021)
- Tomatin to Moy – 2021 (out to tender, expected completion 2027)
- Pitlochry to Killiecrankie – 2022
- Birnam to Ballinluig – 2024 (incorporating Pass of Birnam to Tay Crossing and A9 Tay Crossing to Ballinluig sections)
- Killiecrankie to Glen Garry – 2024
- Glen Garry to Crubenmore – 2024 (incorporating Glen Garry to Dalwhinnie and Dalwhinnie to Crubenmore)
- Crubenmore to Kincraig – 2025
- Dalraddy to Slochd – 2025