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Transport Scotland responds to demands made at The Inverness Courier's A9 Crisis Summit


By Scott Maclennan

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The A9 just south of Inverness. Picture: Callum Mackay..
The A9 just south of Inverness. Picture: Callum Mackay..

The Inverness Courier staged an A9 Crisis Summit in July, attended by transport secretary Mairi McAllan and Transport Scotland representatives. They heard from concerned members of the public, campaigners, and those who have lost loved ones on the road.

From that meeting, nine action points emerged that we put to the Scottish Government and Humza Yousaf.

What follows is the full unedited response from Lawrence Shackman, the director of major projects for Transport Scotland, to those calls. You can view a PDF version here and our report on this letter here.

Thank you for your continued support and interest in the A9 Dualling Programme and for providing your summary of the action points raised at the recent A9 Summit on 18 July, which was attended by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero & Just Transition and Transport Scotland officials. Those that attended the event demonstrated a clear consensus in favour of the dualling programme and I trust the Cabinet Secretary’s presence and contributions at the Summit equally demonstrate her and the Government’s commitment to dualling the A9 between Inverness and Perth. As this is a matter for which Transport Scotland’s Major Projects Directorate has responsibility, your email has been passed to me to respond.

The programme is both a national and a local priority and represents one of the largest and most challenging infrastructure programmes in Scotland’s history. I can assure your readers that my colleagues and I, together with a range of specialist advisors, are working hard to conclude work to determine the most suitable procurement options for the remaining sections of the A9 dualling programme. I can confirm this work is firmly on track to enable an update to be given to Parliament in the autumn, as promised earlier this year. This update will include a new timescale for completion.

Turning now to your specific points, I have responded to each in turn using your headings for clarity below:

Dualling:

a) A final date for the completion of the dualling programme.

b) A detailed schedule for the completion of each of the remaining sections. c) Information on contract type – clearly state if sections will be paid for as the government can afford or a lump sum.

d) Join a locally based A9 working group to meet every quarter.

Details of proposals relating to points a) to c) above are expected to be set out in the aforementioned parliamentary update in the autumn.

With regards to point d), stakeholder engagement is central to how we deliver major infrastructure projects and the design and development phase has already involved significant community, landowner, business and other stakeholder engagement as well as statutory consultation as part of the ongoing Orders process. Following confirmation of decisions on the approach to delivery of the remaining sections of the programme, we will set out our proposals for facilitating and supporting stakeholder engagement across all stakeholder groups with interests in the work taking place throughout the A9 Perth to Inverness corridor.

Safety:

a) Reclassification of the A9 to allow the introduction of 60mph or 70mph signs rather than National Speed Limit signs.

It was suggested at the event in Inverness that the A9 should be designated as a Special Road, and reference was made to other roads being so designated, including the A82. You may wish to note that trunk roads in Scotland designated as Special Roads include:

  • All motorways
  • A720 Edinburgh City Bypass
  • A1 East of Edinburgh (Old Craighall to Thistly Cross)
  • A9000 Forth Road Bridge inc approach roads
  • A90 south of Queensferry Crossing
  • A87 Skye Bridge
  • A90 Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road
  • A725 Raith Interchange (M74 J5)

It may be that reference to A82 has assumed that the presence of specified speed limit signs in particular areas e.g. between Tarbet and Inveranan, is a function of sections of the A82 having been designated as Special Roads. For the avoidance of doubt, no section of the A82 has been designated as a Special Road and the presence of speed limit signs in these areas is because a Speed Limit Order was published specifying a reduction from national speed limits in the sections concerned.

Designation of trunk roads as Special Roads in Scotland has been used where it is considered appropriate to restrict the classes of vehicles which may use the road concerned, typically by not permitting usage by cyclist, horse-drawn vehicles or agricultural traffic and to restrict the rights of statutory undertakers to install apparatus within the verges of the road concerned. It is not considered appropriate to apply either of these restrictions in relation to the existing A9 corridor.

While noting the comments made at the event regarding uncertainty of the applicable speed limit in different sections of the A9, it is an expectation of the Highway Code that drivers, including those from overseas, will be familiar with the speed limits which are applicable to the vehicle they are driving. To support this, Road Safety Scotland collaborates with VisitScotland to inform visitors to the UK of the meaning of the National Speed Limit.

Due to the range of maximum speed limits which apply to different classes of vehicles, the National Speed Limit sign is used where no lower maximum speed limit applies. Speed limits on both the single and dual carriageway sections of the A9 are indicated by the presence of

National Speed Limit signs, supplemented by additional signage indicating that heavy goods vehicles are permitted to travel at a maximum of 50mph on single carriageways between Perth and Inverness. This is a variation from the maximum of 40mph which applies elsewhere in Scotland on single carriageways subject to the National Speed Limit.

b) Better signage indicating the change from single-carriageway to dual-carriageway and overtaking lanes.

Ahead of completion of the dualling programme, a £5m package of engineering and education road safety measures was announced in December 2022. These measures included:

  • New road markings that rumble when vehicles deviate from their lane; • Illuminated road studs at key junctions;
  • New signs and road markings to emphasise the transitions between dual and single carriageways and also to remind drivers when they are on a single carriageway with two way traffic; and
  • Education campaigns on fatigue awareness and ‘drive on the left’, targeting visitors to Scotland.

This work continues to progress, with engineering measures already completed between Birnam and the A898 Dalguise junction. Road marking works are currently underway on the section between Dalguise junction and Ballinluig and are programmed to be completed by the end of August. Future works are being programmed for the remaining single carriageway sections of the A9 between Perth and Inverness in the 2023/2024 and 2024/2025 financial years.

Improvements to signage at the transition area between dual and single carriageways are included in the package of A9 short term measures described above. This includes reviewing and replacing, where appropriate, warning signs on the approach to each end of dual carriageway to align with the latest layouts shown in the Traffic Signs Manual, a standard used by road authorities across the UK. Associated road markings and signage will also be reviewed and amended as required, again to ensure alignment with the Traffic Signs Manual and consistency across the A9. To reinforce the message, the new warning signs will be on yellow backings to give greater prominence. Signage and road markings at single carriageway sections with overtaking lanes will also be reviewed to ensure alignment with the Traffic Signs Manual as part of the deployment of short term measures.

c) Clear road lines at junctions and double white lines at accident black spots.

Road markings on single carriageways, including those at junctions, are being refreshed or replaced as part of the short-term measures. Those on dual carriageways remain subject to regular monitoring with maintenance undertaken on a prioritised basis.

The use of double white lines is prescribed in the Traffic Signs Manual to ensure consistency across roads in the UK. Away from junctions and dual carriageway transitions, double white lines may only be used where visibility for drivers falls below thresholds specified in the Traffic Signs Manual. Over-use of double white lines, particularly on roads with good alignments and where overtaking is feasible in correct conditions, is unlikely to lead to acceptable levels of compliance and undermines the effectiveness of this type of road marking elsewhere. There is also the possibility that drivers will be unable to overtake despite conditions being suitable, which can lead to frustration and longer queues of traffic passing through junctions.

More widely, each year Transport Scotland, through its Operating Companies, undertakes a review of collisions on the trunk road network, including the A9, to identify cluster sites, or routes with recorded collisions that may be worthwhile of further investigation. The screening process, together with a detailed understanding of collision trends around the network, results in a prioritised programme of sites that will be investigated further. Through this process, further investigations are currently being carried out on the Perth to Inverness section of the A9 at the B9152 (Lynwilg) and B851 (Croy) junctions. These further investigations will consider any opportunities for alterations or enhancements to road markings, amongst other improvement options, to address evidenced trends of injury accidents, and other incidents where suitable data is available. This evidence led approach ensures that resources can be targeted at locations where the greatest potential for casualty reduction is available.

d) The creation of temporary rest-stops and toilet facilities.

We recognise the importance of frequent and appropriately sized lay-bys along the A9 for driver safety, to reduce driver tiredness, and for emergency situations. The A9 Dualling programme will ensure suitable provision of lay-bys between Perth and Inverness, where it is safe and appropriate to do so, in addition to improved connectivity to existing local services along the length of the route.

The provision of roadside facilities on the A9 is a commercial matter for prospective operators to pursue and develop. However, any such application would have to go through the local authority planning process, subject to any preferred sites the relevant authority may have. Transport Scotland would assess any planning decisions to determine how appropriate they are in each individual case.

Longer term, the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), published in December 2022, recommends a detailed national audit and review of support for lorry parks to address barriers hampering their development, consider their financial stability and develop adequate standards. With regards to the A9 specifically, there are already a number of facilities aimed at motorists with specific signing from the A9, including those at Bankfoot, Ballinluig and Ralia. In addition, a number of communities near the A9 have signing to highlight the availability of services, such as Aviemore, Kingussie and Newtonmore.

e) Working with car hire and motorhome companies to give foreign drivers guidance in their own language.

In 2019, Road Safety Scotland partnered with Police Scotland and the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) to develop a campaign targeting those not familiar with driving on the left. Leaflets, wristbands, and windscreen stickers were provided to car rental companies to distribute to foreign drivers hiring vehicles at airports across Scotland. In 2023, following Covid, the campaign was revived and developed, and launched by the then Minister for Transport. In addition to the BVRLA route, campaign resources are also available in Visit Scotland iCentres, airports, ferry ports, and supported by variable message signs on appropriate routes. The wristbands say 'drive on the left' in nine languages, and Road Safety Scotland has also produced reservoir gaiters saying 'ride on the left' in eight languages for use by motorcyclists.

More information on the campaign can be found here: www.roadsafety.scot/road-user advice/driving-on-the-left/

I hope you find the above information helpful and I would be grateful if you would publish this letter in full so your readers may see the response to the various points you and others have raised.

Yours sincerely

Lawrence Shackman

Director of Major Projects


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