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FERGUS EWING: Let’s be louder over lack of A9 dualling progress

By Fergus Ewing

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Fergus Ewing and Laura Hansler at the A9 Crisis Summit.
Fergus Ewing and Laura Hansler at the A9 Crisis Summit.

In July, The Inverness Courier hosted a Crisis Summit, bringing together concerned locals, government officials and local leaders to address the long-overdue commitment to dual the A9. A promise that was initially made to be completed in 2025 and has been delayed.

At that summit, big promises were made once again, with assurances that the government would heed the voices of the people, including passionate advocates like Laura Hansler, who spearheaded the Dual the A9 Petition currently under consideration in the Scottish Parliament.

However, as I perused the recent update letter from Transport Scotland regarding the much-vaunted £5 million safety measures package, it seems that these promises might be fading like tire tracks on a rainy day.

At the summit, members of the public offered practical suggestions to enhance road safety. First on the list was a call to clearly indicate speed limits so that foreign drivers could navigate the A9 with confidence. It’s common sense when the road switches between dual track and single track in many areas – 60mph, 70mph, or less during roadworks; knowing the limits matters. Yet, this seemingly straightforward request seems to have been overlooked.

Another raised issue was the wasteful spending on illuminated signs that state the blatantly obvious. Do we really need signs to remind us not to drive tired? The answer is a resounding no, and the people made it clear.

One particularly enduring trial, reminiscent of Dickensian legal sagas, is the 50mph trial for HGVs. Initially introduced as a trial, it’s morphed into the “never-ending story” of road safety trials. Communities deserve transparency and results, not perpetual trials.

The response we received from Transport Scotland in the update letter paints a picture of a remote and out-of-touch entity. It leaves one wondering whether ministers possess the determination or gumption to advocate for what our communities genuinely desire. While safety measures are welcome, the locals are yearning for practical solutions, such as those suggested at the summit.

What the communities along the A9 truly seek is a detailed timetable for the road’s dualling. They want dates, not vague promises, for each section of the road. Safety measures are an essential interim solution, but they should not overshadow the primary commitment to dual the A9 by 2025.

Our voices were loud and clear at the Crisis Summit, but it appears that we must raise them even higher to ensure our concerns are heard. We will continue to press for what our communities need, not just for today but for the long road ahead.

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