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Progress on A96 Nairn bypass plans as Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson gives go-ahead for completion of statutory procedures for dualling

By Donald Wilson

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Plans for dualling of the A96 between Inverness and Nairn have taken a step forward.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson has given the go-ahead for the completion of statutory procedures related to dualling plans.

Subject to there being no challenge to the orders for the scheme, survey work and the process of land acquisition will begin.

Mr Matheson said: “We are continuing to progress our ambitious plans to dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen, delivering around 88 miles of upgraded road.

“The go-ahead for the A96 Dualling Inverness to Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) scheme is a massive step forward in our plans to dual this 19-mile section of the route and re-enforces our commitment to dualling the A96 and investing in the Highlands.

“Our plans for this section also include nearly 19 miles of off-carriageway shared-use facilities for non-motorised users which will connect local communities along the route and facilitate active travel within the corridor.

“This significant decision now clears the way for us to publish Made Orders for this scheme and we are pushing forward with the necessary preparatory work to achieve publication by this summer.

"Subject to there being no challenge to Made Orders this would complete the statutory process for the scheme and allow us to acquire land required to build the scheme.

“At the same time preparatory work is also under way to bring forward advance works, for example invasive archaeological survey work, following completion of the statutory process and acquisition of land.

“This huge milestone for the programme leads the way for other sections of the route to follow as we continue to advance the detailed development and assessment of the preferred options for the Hardmuir to Fochabers and East of Huntly to Aberdeen schemes."

Doubts were raised earlier this month about the timetable for the dualling of both the A96 and A9.

It was suggested that completion of work on the A9 could be pushed back from 2025 to 2030, with works on the A96 either downsized or delayed as Transport Scotland said it would need to “take stock.”

Asked by Highland MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston asked if she would reassure people in the Highlands that the Scottish Government remained “committed to completing both projects in full and within the original target time scales” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appeared to sidestep the question.

“Covid has had an impact on all of this and we will need to consider exactly what that impact will be going forward,” she said before adding that "we’ll continue to progress these [projects] as quickly as possible.”

Today's announcement by the cabinet secretary states that a timetable for construction cannot be set out until the scheme is formally approved.

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