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Truckers plan A9 rolling roadblocks

By Jamie Durent

HGV driver Conor McKenna is leading the protest
HGV driver Conor McKenna is leading the protest

LORRY drivers are to stage a mass protest against the installation of average speed cameras on the A9 in a move which is expected to cause major traffic delays.

Vehicles from across the country will leave simultaneously from Inverness and Perth and drive at 40mph along the route to highlight what will happen when the cameras become operational next summer.

Organiser Conor McKenna expects a minimum of 80 lorries to leave from the Highland Capital, but as yet is unsure of how many will travel from Perth to Inverness. The date of the protest has been set but is being kept secret to ensure the HGVs encounter typical traffic conditions.

"We want something that has a big impact," said 29-year-old Mr McKenna, of Kinmylies, Inverness, who works for DPS in Dingwall. "It needs to be dramatic to show the government the problems this will cause."

Transport minister Keith Brown announced last week he had accepted a recommendation from the A9 Safety Group that average speed cameras should be installed along the entire 139-mile route between Inverness and Dunblane, a stretch which includes both dual and single carriageway sections and has seen several fatal accidents over the past 12 months.

Costing £2.5 million, it will be the longest continuous stretch covered by average speed cameras in the UK. An online campaign opposing the plan has already attracted thousands of supporters.

"These proposals are simply putting a plaster on a bleeding wound and the only way the A9 Safety Group will listen is if something happens," Mr McKenna continued. "We were not consulted on this matter.

"Costs will go up and it could be a disaster for smaller haulage companies. The A9 Safety Group needs the finger pointing at them as they are just not thinking."

Mr McKenna is already leading a separate campaign for the speed limit for HGVs on single carriageways to be raised from 40mph to 50mph, saying lorry drivers were often breaking the law on the A9 to keep traffic moving.

More than 100 cameras will be placed at around 40 sites between the Keir Roundabout in Dunblane and the Raigmore Interchange in Inverness, with the first expected to be introduced early next year.

Dualling the A9 is expected to begin in 2015-16, with the Scottish government committing £3 billion to turning 80 miles of the road into dual carriageway. However, ministers are resisting calls to speed up the work, which is not scheduled to be completed until 2025.

Mike Burns runs the Facebook group "A9 Average Speed Cameras are not the answer", which by yesterday had over 7500 likes, and is liaising with Mr McKenna over the protest.

"The main aim is to attract the debate that we have never had on this issue as we need a majority solution, not a quick fix," he said.

"Both groups are planning a meeting this weekend to discuss the tactics of this and we may do a quick fund-raise, so we can film the impact from the air."

Transport Scotland last night rejected Mr McKenna’s claims that HGV drivers were not consulted about the proposals.

"Average speed cameras create a level playing field for hauliers and allow other motorists to overtake more safely and within the speed limit," said a spokeswoman.

Dave Stewart, Labour MSP for the Highlands who worked with Mr McKenna on his 50mph campaign, has received complaints from constituents, including HGV drivers, concerned about the introduction of cameras.

"In my mind, the only solution is to dual the A9 and to bring forward the start date of the programme," he said.

Phil Flanders, Road Haulage Association director for Scotland said: "It (average speed cameras) will undoubtedly make an impact on some of the high speeds we see on the road, but it is a bit of a grey area for those who just go over the speed limit for overtaking vehicles."

About the protest, he added: "Forty is the speed limit, nobody can jump about and complain at hauliers driving at the speed limit."

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