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Dualling campaigner ‘pleads’ with First Minister to dual lethal A9 sections first but John Swinney is ‘reticent’

By Scott Maclennan

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Locator A9 near Tomatin junction.
Locator A9 near Tomatin junction.

She had been invited to a gathering of cross-party MSPs calling on Mr Swinney to move ahead at pace, possibly in advance of the 2035 target deadline, and to concentrate efforts on the deadliest stretches.

Mr Swinney said he was “pleased” to meet the group but Ms Hansler said she found him “reticent” and even unwilling to consider potential changes to the dualling timetable in a way she thinks could save lives.

The meeting came a day after it was confirmed that a second person had lost their life this month on the A9 – a 63-year-old man died at the scene of a collision near Blair Atholl.

A9 Kincraig petitions committeet at Kincraig Community Hall, Suidhe Crescent, Kincraig, Kingussie. Laura Hansler Petitioner – A9 Dual Action Group. Piicture: Callum Mackay.
A9 Kincraig petitions committeet at Kincraig Community Hall, Suidhe Crescent, Kincraig, Kingussie. Laura Hansler Petitioner – A9 Dual Action Group. Piicture: Callum Mackay.

That incident caused traffic chaos leading Ms Hansler to argue for “desperately” needed community resilience plans following “inadequate” public communication and an ongoing agreement between bus companies and Scotrail to get people moving.

But her main point was focussing efforts on dualling the most lethal sections, she said: “I absolutely pleaded with the First Minister to consider the next section to be procured and indeed dualled be Drumochter to Dalwhinnie, as we are facing a major incident on this section with the most trying and extreme weather conditions, it is only a matter of time before we are faced with catastrophic consequences on this section.

“And all junctions to be upgraded in the interim and I highlighted the absolute abysmal and dangerous state of all junctions north of Dunkeld bearing in mind that we can prove that a majority of these RTC’s are happening within a few hundred yards of these junctions.

“However, the First Minister is reticent to be drawn on pulling this project further forward. There is also hesitation that more frustration to the driver would be noted by dualling on more than one section at a time (you may remember in parliament that I pleaded for dualling to happen consecutively and sequentially) we are still awaiting the Tomatin to Moy award which the First Minister still said will be announced ‘early summer’.

“We have no doubt with the right funding and support that our construction industry can indeed deliver on this, however the Scottish Government must decide IF the people of the Scottish Highlands and Islands are a priority for them and invest in our infrastructure”.

Mr Swinney said after the meeting: “I was pleased to have the opportunity this afternoon to meet with colleagues across the parliament and Ms Hansler to discuss the Scottish Government’s plan for dualling the A9.

“One life lost on Scotland’s roads is one too many and our sympathies are with all of those who have been affected by any of the recent accidents on Scotland’s road network.

“This essential route through the Highlands must be safe, reliable and resilient – and that is why we continue to be steadfast in our commitment to delivering A9 Dualling.

“This commitment is further demonstrated by the most recent progress made in the programme’s delivery plan, with the publication of the contract notice for the Tay Crossing to Ballinluig section and the anticipated award of the Tomatin to Moy contract in the coming weeks.

“The Scottish Government is utterly focused on achieving the targets set in the delivery plan and it is our intention for construction to roll continually until dualling between Perth and Inverness is complete by the end of 2035.”

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