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RHODA GRANT: New data underpins why A9 dualling is necessary

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Rhoda Grant on the A9 dualling programme.
Rhoda Grant on the A9 dualling programme.

For this column, I wish to focus mainly on transport in Highland.

Last week, the Citizens Participation and Public Petitions Committee within the Scottish Parliament discussed a petition to dual the A9. This committee meeting revealed lots of details including cashflow issues which delayed the project.

I support this petition – as stated in my written submission to committee. This was a SNP manifesto promise in 2007 yet we are still waiting. Understandably, residents of Highland, myself and fellow MSPs are frustrated.

Recently a Government Initiated Question was tabled on the A9 and then withdrawn. These questions are normally tabled to allow Government to make announcements to Parliament. This suggests they were about to make an announcement but then changed their minds.

Time is now ticking to get the procurement for the Tomatin to Moy section underway and I will be pressuring government to do this to avoid further delays.

I also received a few Parliamentary Question responses in regards to A9 south Perth to Inverness.

What I saw from these responses, is that we’ve had a closure every month since March 2022. We’ve also had 21 closures in 2022 and so far in 2023, we’ve already had more than nine closures.

Of course, these closures are of varying degrees, but I think this data underpins why dualling is necessary. This is a safety issue. Plain and simple.

Highland residents are resilient. We are used to being ignored by our Governments and “getting on with it”. But in regards to the A9 dualling this SNP-Green Government do deserve to hear our anger and I hope the petition works to speed up the process to dualing.

Another transport decision that I am disappointed with is that the Scottish Government is not delivering on their 2008 promise to cut train journey times between Inverness and Edinburgh to 2 hours and 45 minutes.

However, fifteen years later, the previous Transport Minister, Kevin Stewart, told me in a Parliamentary Question that he is “unable to commit to a date for delivering this journey time.” The Minister further advised that “The costs and benefits for delivering this need to be considered against those for delivering alternative rail enhancement projects, notably those that will contribute towards the decarbonisation of Scotland’s railway, within constrained funding.”

This is just a further body blow to the Highland Transport network. Residents only want services comparable to what is available in the central belt, yet it feels as if we are on a constant up-hill battle.

In an area where depopulation is a constant, ongoing, and detrimental issue, addressing our poor transport links could be a step in the right direction. This would then have a positive knock on effect on our recruitment, healthcare inequality and on the climate crisis.

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