Minister meets with Free Church to discuss A9 safety
The A9 is the longest trunk road in Scotland and the £3 billion that the Scottish Government has committed to upgrading the route between Perth and Inverness is the most expensive transport project in Scotland's history and presents some of the most challenging work ever witnessed. The ambitious M74 Project took 10 years from start to finish (2001 to 2011) and at five miles long is a fraction of the length of the A9.
Mr Brown also confirmed today that a number of sections on the road will be dualled well before 2025, with over 50 per cent of the dualling due to be complete by 2022.
Speaking after a meeting with Free Church Leaders in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Mr Brown said:
"The A9 passes through areas which are breathtaking and hugely important in terms of wildlife and landscape - not to mention people's homes. The suggestion that we can somehow ignore these procedures and not consult people who stand to be affected by the upgrading work is of course not possible. We are legally bound to examine the possible impacts of the programme on the environment and have already published the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the route for consultation.
"We were able to explain in detail today the reality that 2025 is very challenging when you consider the design and statutory procedures that must be completed. We are dealing with internationally environmentally designated sites; rock cuttings; building new bridges and widening existing major bridges; public utilities; dealing with the close proximity of the Highland Mainline Railway; and there are currently over 100 junctions that must be incorporated to provide access to adjacent property and communities. We must ensure that all options for dualling are considered and consulted upon so that we minimise the potential impacts on those living in and using the A9 corridor.
"In addition to the route-wide work, we are also progressing design work on three dualling schemes with the preferred routes recently on show for the two of the sections - Luncarty to Pass of Birnam and Kincraig to Dalraddy - with a view to work starting on the latter scheme in 2015/16 and in 2017 on the Luncarty to Pass of Birnam stretch. We are however determined that motorists should see improvements on the route as soon as possible and we will look for any opportunity to bring work forward.
"Through this commitment we are already on target to complete the Kincraig to Dalraddy Scheme in 2017 and the Luncarty to Birnam scheme in 2019. And as the work is stepped up with tenders soon to issue for the three multi-million pound contracts to design the Dualling Programme, we expect to have over half of the dualling completed by 2022.
"Some very complex and demanding challenges undoubtedly lie ahead, but given our track record on other major projects we are confident of delivery on time and on budget. It shouldn’t be forgotten that this is the first time any government has committed to dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness, the biggest transport project, by cost, in Scotland's history, and one that will exceed the cost of the M74, Queensferry Crossing, Borders Rail and AWPR combined.
"In the meantime, we want to do all that we can to prevent serious accidents. The A9 Safety Group has produced a package of measures to improve road safety by tackling poor driving behaviour and will continue to work together to address issues such as driver frustration and developing an education campaign on overtaking manoeuvres."
Further information is available at http://a9road.info/ and http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/road/projects/a9
The A9 Safety Group consists of membership from Transport Scotland, Police Scotland, Local Authorities, Safety Camera Partnerships, Trunk Road operating Companies, the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association, the Confederation of Passenger Transport and Stagecoach. The objective of the multi-agency group is to work in partnership to positively influence driver behaviours in a way that helps reduce road casualty figures on the A9 before and during the A9 dualling programme.