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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

A9: Ministers' 'fail' over one of Scotland's most notorious roads

MINISTERS have been accused of "shocking indifference" after admitting a failure to meet over revelations that improvements to one of Scotland's most treacherous roads will not be completed by the 2025 target.

A response to a question has confirmed that the Cabinet as of April 17 had not discussed confirmation on February 8 from then transport minister Jenny Gilruth that the target for the A9 was "unachievable." The transport minister was informed by Transport Scotland that target could not be met on December 7, 2022.

She said the government remained committed to upgrading the remaining single carriageway sections of what is Scotland's longest road to dual carriageway.

But she said the project had been hit by delays, highlighting the impact of the Covid pandemic, Brexit and the war in Ukraine.

The Scottish government had committed to the project in 2011, when it was predicted to cost £3bn.

Over the last 10 years, work has been completed on two sections, totalling 11 miles of road - but about 77 miles of road remains to be dualled.

It December, it emerged that the number of people killed in crashes on the road had risen to their highest level in 20 years.

Thirteen people lost their lives on the 112-mile section of the A9 between Inverness and Perth in 2022.

There have been attempts to improve safety while work continues on the project to dual about 77 miles of remaining single carriageway.

But campaigners say local residents are in constant fear of the next crash.

The Scottish Conservatives have said the 'failure to meet' admission was “astonishing and unacceptable”.

Shadow transport minister Graham Simpson said: "It highlights the shocking indifference of ministers towards campaigners and those who have already lost their lives on this death-trap trunk road.

“It’s more than four months since the then-transport secretary was informed by Transport Scotland that the timetable could not be achieved and two months since Jenny Gilruth admitted as much in parliament.

“So it beggars belief that this has not been a major – or even a minor – topic for debate in cabinet. Ministers ought to be straining every sinew to address their appallingly slow progress in dualling the A9. It’s literally a matter of life and death."

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said the Scottish Government remained committed to dualling the A9 – but said an announcement on the timescale for completing the remaining sections of the road would come in the autumn.

Over the last 10 years, work on the A9 has been completed on two sections, totalling 11 miles of road.

Mr Simpson added: “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the influence of the car-hating Scottish Greens on the Nationalist coalition means this project – and a similarly vital one to upgrade the A96 – is simply not a priority for the SNP."

“If that’s the case, it’s shameful and unforgiveable.”

Concerns over safety on the A9 which runs for 230 miles from Scrabster, near Thurso, to Dunblane, near Stirling - date back decades.

Official figures show there were 15 deaths on the Inverness to Perth stretch in 1988, then 21 the following year.

According to the A9 Safety Group, whose members include Bear Scotland, Police Scotland and Highland Council, some 77% of all fatal and serious accidents on that stretch took place on single carriageways.

Ms Gilruth said in February that £5m was being invested in extra road safety measures, including enhanced signage and road markings, and electronic signs with safety messages.

She said the 2025 target for the project had always been an ambitious challenge which had relied on a range of factors.

She highlighted that only one contractor had tendered for the work to upgrade the Tomatin to Moy section of the road in the Highlands.

This contract will now have to be retendered after it was decided that this bid did not represent good value to taxpayers.

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