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WATCH: A9 must be 'safe, reliable and resilient as possible – and that’s what the Scottish Government will deliver' says transport secretary

By Andrew Dixon

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Mairi McAllan delivering the update today.
Mairi McAllan delivering the update today.

The Scottish Government has vowed to dual 'nearly half' of the Inverness-Perth A9 stretch within the next seven years.

Transport secretary Mairi McAllan says its plan anticipates completion of the entire A9 dualling programme for that stretch by the end of 2035.

Today's much-anticipated update comes after the government admitted in February that its original promised deadline to have the section completely dualled by 2025 was unachievable.

Transport Scotland says the delivery plan involves a rolling programme of construction with dualled sections opened progressively, adding: "All those who travel on the A9 will experience the benefits of dualling well ahead of the final section becoming operational. Nearly 50 per cent of the road is expected to be dualled by the end of 2030, rising to 85 per cent by the end of 2033, with the final section expected to open by the end of 2035."

The government has adopted a “hybrid” approach to delivering the programme, progressing the three remaining southern projects as individual capital-funded design and build contracts, with the remaining projects in the north and central sections delivered via two resource-funded mutual investment model (MIM) contracts, subject to ongoing due diligence and further decision making in late 2025, including an updated assessment of market conditions.

Work will begin immediately on preparations for procurement of the first of the three design and build contracts, for the Tay Crossing to Ballinluig project. Publication of the contract notice is planned for spring 2024, with contract award expected in summer 2025.

Ms McAllan also confirmed that the preferred option for the Pass of Birnam to Tay Crossing project will include a number of elements of the community’s preferred option, including a roundabout at Dunkeld and junction layouts at The Hermitage and Dalguise.

"I am aware that today’s announcement has been keenly anticipated by many, especially those concerned to see safety benefits secured on the route and by the many Scottish communities and businesses for whom the A9 is essential," Ms McAllan said.

"This programme has faced challenges and I acknowledge that it has not progressed at the pace we would have liked. However, the A9 is the backbone of Scotland. It must be safe, reliable and resilient as possible – and that’s what the Scottish Government will deliver.

"The approach that I outlined today foregrounds certainty of delivery carefully balanced with factors such as industry capacity to deliver, the need to minimise disruption to road users and wider financial constraints.

"This government is restating its commitment to dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness – with a concrete plan. The approach I have set out means that the Highlands can have confidence that the considerable benefits of A9 dualling will be delivered in full.

"Now we have reached this point, there will be no let up. When construction starts on Tomatin to Moy next year, under this delivery programme, it should roll continually until the route between Perth and Inverness is fully dualled."

Transport Scotland has prepared updated total scheme cost estimates for each project. The total cost of the programme is now estimated at £3.7 billion at April 2023 prices.

Ms McAllan also announced that a new website is being launched for A9 dualling project in the new year.

Pass of Birnam and Tay Crossing

The preferred route option for the section of the route between Pass of Birnam and Tay Crossing has been identified.

Public exhibitions are to be held on January 29 and 30 in Birnam Arts Centre. In the meantime, an online exhibition and Story Map, which includes information on the preferred route option and how it was chosen, has gone live today and the public can leave feedback on the plans here.

Transport minister Fiona Hyslop said: “Design work continues to be progressed at pace across the A9 dualling programme, with ministerial decisions to complete the statutory process confirmed for over 92 per cent of the length to be dualled.

“We will continue to build on the design work already undertaken across the programme by completing the statutory process during 2024 for the outstanding three schemes which have received ministerial consent and acquiring the necessary land to align with the timescales set out for delivery of the various sections.

“The only section not to have started the statutory process is the Pass of Birnam to Tay Crossing project, which has been the subject of a co-creative process with the local community. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the local community for their work through the co-creative process which has helped broaden our vision for the A9 dualling through this section of the route.

“I recently met the Birnam to Ballinluig A9 Community Group to discuss their concerns ahead of a decision being made on the preferred route option for this section. I truly value the input the Community Group has made during the process.

“I can confirm that the preferred route announced today includes a number of the elements of the community’s preferred route option, including a roundabout at Dunkeld and the junction layouts at The Hermitage and Dalguise. Inclusion of these will help meet the community’s objective of promoting long-term and sustainable economic growth within Dunkeld, Birnam and the surrounding area.

“Local communities and road users will have the chance to see and comment on our plans for this challenging section of the A9 at face-to-face public exhibitions at the end of January and via an online exhibition which will go live today.

“Going forward as we further develop our plans for this section of the A9, I remain committed to maintaining the positive community relationship built during the co-creative process.

“The next step for the project is the detailed development and assessment of the preferred route option, which is now underway and will conclude with the publication of draft orders by spring 2025 for comment.”

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