Minister backs A82:Make it Safe campaign
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The Courier’s campaign for improvements to the region’s most dangerous road has won vital support – including from Scotland’s transport minister.
Michael Matheson heaped praise on our A82: Make it Safe campaign and vowed to take action to address safety concerns.
It comes after nearly 1500 people signed our petition and the campaign received some heavyweight political backing.
Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford, who is the leader of the SNP in Westminster, said: “Scottish Government transport priorities for the next 20 years are to be determined in the near future so it is imperative that the feelings of those who have first-hand knowledge and experience of the road are taken into account and that the A82 is prioritised for urgent improvements.
“For these reasons, I welcome the A82: Make it Safe campaign and support the bid to ensure this major – and extremely busy – trunk road is confirmed as a priority for upgrading and improvement.”
It comes after Scotland’s finance minister and Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes put her weight behind the fight earlier this month.
Mr Matheson – cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity – said he was aware of all the people who have signed the petition and he understood the strength of feeling in the area about the road.
He said: “I’m well aware of the campaign and the number of people that have already signed the petition shows the strength of feeling within the community.
“I know there is nothing that I can say that will take away the pain for the family and friends of those that have lost their lives.
“What I can pledge is that road safety will always be of the utmost importance to the Scottish Government. While the latest figures show road casualties sit at the lowest levels since records began, we believe that one death is one to many.”
Data provided by the Scottish Government shows a total of 55 serious collisions and 18 fatalities between January 2017 and summer 2019 on the A82 between Glasgow and Inverness via Fort William.
There have been further deaths since then.
Mr Matheson continued: “That’s why we’re currently consulting on our ambitious Road Safety Framework for the next decade. At the heart of these proposals is Vision Zero, where there are zero fatalities and injuries on Scotland’s roads by 2050.
“We’re also including interim targets where the number of people being killed or seriously injured on our roads will be halved by 2030.
“While this work takes place, we will continue to take decisive action to improve road safety across the trunk road network in Scotland. Information on accidents is used to ensure action and investment is targeted to the areas that need it most.
“To this end, we have invested more than £120 million on the management and maintenance of the A82 in the north west since 2007. We have already committed to improving the A82 between Tarbet and Inverarnan.
“Detailed development and assessment of the preferred option is currently taking place, which will ultimately improve connectivity and road safety between the Highlands and the central belt. As well as these planned improvements, we have the second Strategic Transport Projects Review, which is looking at future investment in the strategic transport network – including the A82.
“So I’d like your readers to know that we hear the local voices calling for investment in the A82 and we are taking action to address those concerns.”
However, roads campaigner Samantha Cousin, who has led the community in calling for change, said Mr Matheson’s words did not go far enough.
She said: “Deaths halved by 2030? Another decade of suffering for families. In what world is that OK? Not mine!”
Ms Cousin lost her son Rhys (25), daughter-in-law Gemma (26) and grandchildren Peyton (3) and Peyton (1) on the road on February 20.
“In my book, wanting to reduce deaths means taking action now,” she said. “In my own research, I have found out that on the stretches of the A82 where investment has been made, deaths and serious accidents have been greatly reduced.
“That is of no comfort for those people who have to use the untouched more rural areas of the A82.
“Something needs to happen now to reduce accidents, something needs to happen to stop people needlessly dying on the road as they are simply going about their business.
“We should not stop fighting and signing the petition until the works are completed.”
n Sign the petition at www.change.org/A82makeitsafe