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Revealed: A96 dualling review bill doubled since October

By Lewis McBlane

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THE Scottish Government has spent nearly £4 million reviewing plans to dual the A96.

Douglas Ross attacked the SNP-Green coalition for the amount spent on the review.
Douglas Ross attacked the SNP-Green coalition for the amount spent on the review.

New Transport Scotland figures showed that £3.8 million had been spent on the A96 Corridor Review as of June 1.

The project's latest bill, revealed through a Freedom of Information Request from the Scottish Conservatives, is more than double the £1.8 million spend detailed in figures released in October 2022.

A commitment to dual the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness was made in December 2011, with a dualling deadline of 2030.

But the project was paused for a "transparent, evidence-based review" of the dualling, which will also measure climate impact, as part of 2021's SNP-Green coalition deal.

The exact sum spent on the review prior to June was £3,825,341.67, and it gathered 4687 responses.

A questionnaire, released as part of the review, found that 88 per cent of respondents were very dissatisfied or dissatisfied with the availability of safe overtaking opportunities, 79 per cent were not happy with the levels of traffic congestion and 76 per cent were not satisfied with the length of journey times.

Dualling the A96 was also found to be the top priority for locals, as 55 per cent of respondents marked it as a priority.

Last week, transport secretary Mairi McAllan admitted the outcome of the climate review “could have a bearing” on whether the road is fully dualled.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said the Scottish Government is committed to "improving" the A96 and that the amount spent on the A96 Corridor Review was "not unreasonable".

Project outcomes are to be announced "later this summer", the spokesperson added.

Highlands and Islands MSP Douglas Ross said: “It is astonishing that nearly £4 million worth of public money has already been spent on this review which the SNP ordered to keep the anti-car Green party happy and in government with them.

“Ever since the SNP brought the Greens into government in 2021, it is clear that they have been rowing back on their previous commitment to fully dual this key route by 2030.

“Failure to do so would be a devastating blow for communities and businesses across Moray.

"People living and working across the area are sick and tired of these reviews taking place at great cost.

“People in Moray just want the A96 dualled to vastly improve road safety and to boost the local economy.

“The new SNP transport team – Mairi McAllan and Fiona Hyslop – need to guarantee that previous commitments will be met and the views of people in Moray and elsewhere along the A96 will be put ahead of the anti-growth, anti-motorist Greens.”

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “The number of responses submitted to the A96 corridor review, which formed part of the climate compatibility assessment, demonstrates the strong views held locally on the dualling of the road between Aberdeen and Inverness.

“I am hopeful we’ll get an update on next step from the Scottish Government soon and in my capacity as Moray MSP I’ve sought a meeting with the new Transport Secretary to once again convey the views of my constituents on plans to dual the A96.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Transport said: "The current plan is to fully dual the route and as part of this process we are undertaking a transparent, evidence-based review of the programme with the outcomes of this expected to be ready for consultation later this summer," the spokesperson said.

“The public consultation undertaken last year, as part of the A96 Corridor Review, received an unprecedented level of engagement with approximately 4,600 responses, generating more than 11,000 suggestions and potential opportunities for the route all of which have required to be carefully considered as part of the transparent evidence based process.

“The total spent to date on the A96 Corridor Review reflects the extensive appraisal and assessment work that is required to appropriately inform this review and includes consideration of the large number of responses received through the initial consultation exercise and intensive sifting process to determine the initial options for further appraisal.

“More recently the detailed appraisal of the remaining options is ongoing as well as engagement with stakeholders and the development of the further assessment, including a Climate Compatibility Assessment and Statutory Impact Assessments, required to inform the Review.

"This expenditure is not unreasonable given the length and complexity of the corridor subject to the Review and the extent of the work being carried out to complete it.

“The Scottish Government is also committed to dualling the Inverness to Nairn section including the Nairn bypass and we continue to progress the preparation stages of the scheme with a view to completing the statutory process for that as soon as possible.”

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