The A96 is the trunk road linking the cities of Inverness and Aberdeen. It runs from Raigmore Interchange at Inverness to Haudagain Roundabout at Aberdeen, passing through various towns and villages along the route.

The dualling programme will deliver a number benefits including improved journey time and reliability, delivering economic growth, improved connectivity and reduce the rate and severity of accidents.

We have completed preliminary engineering and environmental assessment work along the whole A96 corridor between east of Nairn and Aberdeen and the draft orders for the section between Inverness and Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) were published on 29 November 2016. A Public Local Inquiry has been held in relation to the representations received to the draft Orders.

In June 2016, we appointed Mott Macdonald Sweco to carry out route option assessment and thereafter detailed design work for dualling the 29-mile western section of the A96 between Hardmuir and Fochabers and a preferred option has now been selected for this scheme.

Amey Arup were appointed in July 2017 to take forward route options design and assessment work on the 26-mile eastern section between East of Huntly and Aberdeen.

The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party signed a Cooperation Agreement in August 2021 which agreed to conduct a transparent evidence-based review of the programme. The review is already underway and will report by the end of the year.

About the project

The intention to fully dual the A96 was announced in December 2011, when the Scottish Government published its Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) which contained the commitment to dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030, thus completing the dual carriageway network between all Scottish cities.

On 9 May 2013 the then Minister for Transport and Veterans set out how the A96 Dualling Programme would be taken forward over the following few years.  This announcement identified packages of preliminary design and development work, with the objective of completing the full dualling between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030.

Since then we have progressed the preliminary engineering and environmental studies, expanding our knowledge of the various challenges associated with providing a dual carriageway between Inverness and Aberdeen and developing key strategies to achieve this goal.  The outcome of these studies was published on 11 May 2015.  At the same time a timetable was published for the next stage of design development for between east of Nairn and Aberdeen east of Nairn to Aberdeen and this stage is being taken forward as three separate schemes.

In addition we have also completed the development and assessment of the preferred option on the section between Inverness and Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) and published Draft Orders for the scheme on 29 November 2016. A Public Local Inquiry has been held in relation to representations received to the draft Orders.

We are committed to encouraging interest and public involvement in the development of the proposals to dual the A96. As work on the project progresses the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland will ensure that arrangements for participation are inclusive, open and transparent and that a wide range of participants are encouraged to get involved.

Key facts

  • The Scottish Government, through the Infrastructure Investment Plan, has put in place a commitment to dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030
  • The length of the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen is approximately 160 km (99 miles)
  • The combined total of the existing dual carriageway sections between Inverness and Aberdeen is approximately 22 km (13 miles)
  • The sections to be dualled total around 138 km (86 miles). This is 17 times the length of the M74 Completion, seven times the length of the M80 Stepps to Haggs project and over three times the length of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR)

Challenges ahead

We are working collaboratively with key agencies, authorities and local communities to address the challenges such as:

  • managing the impact on the many environmentally sensitive areas
  • proximity of communities along the existing route
  • improving accessibility for local communities 
  • improved access to tourist and recreation
  • minimising impact of construction
  • Aberdeen to Inverness Railway
  • a consistent road standard which includes a review of the existing dual carriageway sections

A96 Dualling Inverness to Aberdeen Strategic Business Case

The Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR), published in 2008, set out a number of transport priorities for the Inverness to Aberdeen corridor to be met by 2032. These transport priorities included rail enhancements; strategic park and rides; upgrading the A96 to dual carriageway between Inverness and Nairn; a bypass of Nairn; a new bridge at Inveramsay; and a targeted programme of measures to reduce accident severity.

Since 2008, there has been a renewed focus on developing and promoting economic growth through Scotland’s cities and their regions which is reflected in current thinking for planned development along the corridor through Local Development Plans which have ambitious growth aspirations. Furthermore, the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan has identified Aberdeen, Peterhead, Ardersier and Nigg as key locations to enable Scotland to reap the economic benefits resulting from the offshore renewable energy potential. Connectivity to the central belt of Scotland, the rest of the UK markets, and access to labour force is critical to the success of the region.

It is in this context that the Strategic Business Case for the A96 Dualling Inverness to Aberdeen programme has been developed. This builds upon the evidence base of the STPR and seeks opportunities to address the growing economic and transport demands along the corridor.

The appraisal has been undertaken in accordance with Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG), which is an objective-led, evidenced based approach, based on the identification of problems and opportunities. The Strategic Business Case (SBC) summarises the outcome of the appraisal undertaken and covers the following:

  • policy context
  • identification of the key problems, issues, and opportunities on the corridor
  • development of transport planning objectives for the study
  • options to be taken forward to the appraisal process
  • results of the appraisal process and
  • recommendations.

View the A96 Dualling Inverness to Aberdeen Strategic Business Case.

The planning process

The proposals will be developed following the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) which ensures a robust and fit for purpose design.

Statutory (planning) permissions must also be gained through the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

Transport Scotland carries out a rigorous assessment process to establish the preferred line for a trunk road improvement. The DMRB three stage assessment process covers traffic and economics, engineering and environment.

Transport Scotland has undertaken preliminary engineering and strategic environmental assessment work along the length of the A96 (DMRB Stage 1 Assessment).

Following conclusion of the DMRB Stage 1 the scheme has been divided into three sections, in addition to the Inverness to Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) section, for further assessment at Stage 2 and 3.  The three sections are on the basis of a Western Section (Hardmuir to Fochabers), Central Section (east of Fochabers to east of Huntly) and Eastern Section (east of Huntly to Aberdeen).

Design and Assessment

Stage 1 (Strategic Assessment)

  • Strategic planning and development of improved transport links between Inverness and Aberdeen
  • Identify the economic, engineering, traffic and environmental advantages and disadvantages and constraints associated with broadly defined improvement strategies
  • A Strategic Environmental Assessment published for comment
  • Topographical and environmental surveys
  • Traffic and business surveys

Stage 2 (Route Options Assessment)

  • Development and assessment of route options for upgrading the A96 from single to dual carriageway. This includes an engineering, traffic, economics and environmental assessment of the potential impacts of each option to inform the route choice
  • At the end of this stage the options will be made available for consultation
  • Following this assessment and consultation, the preferred option is then selected and taken forward to the detailed stage

Stage 3 (Detailed Design and Assessment)

  • Detailed assessment and definition of the preferred dualling option
  • An Environmental Statement is prepared and the land required for the dualling is also identified

Statutory Process (Publication of Environmental Statement and Orders)

  • The draft Compulsory Purchase Order (defining the extent of the proposed land required to deliver the scheme), the draft Roads Orders (defining the line of the proposed infrastructure) and the Environmental Statement (ES) are published
  • Any statutory objections, which are lodged during the defined period but remain unresolved, are then considered at a Public Local Inquiry (PLI) 
  • If the objections are upheld following the PLI, the scheme may have to be amended and taken through the statutory process again. If the objections are resolved or dismissed, then the draft orders are finalised and made
  • After this point the legal permissions have been obtained and the preferred option can proceed with the necessary acquisition of land

Following the completion of the planning stages, the process to procure a works contractor for the construction of dual carriageway commences.

Suppliers are invited to express an interest in the procurement and then a prequalification process is used to shortlist suppliers that will be invited to Tender. Through the Tender process, a supplier is selected and the contract is awarded.

The preferred dualling option can then move to the construction phase.

Community engagement

Meaningful engagement with directly affected communities and businesses is a key part of our work as we develop plans to dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen.

As well as bringing benefits, road construction often impacts on those who are living and working along the route.

The local perspective on the main risks and opportunities, in addition to baseline information on the existing area, is not only welcome, but vital.

We will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to provide important feedback. This feedback shall be taken into account as the project is designed, procured and constructed.

Public exhibitions

In November 2013 we started our programme of public engagement for the A96 Dualling Programme with a series of public exhibitions. This allowed us to share information on the assessment, design and development process we need to undertake before providing a dual carriageway.

As part of the A96 Dualling programme, a further series of public exhibitions were held in venues along the route from 11 May 2015 until 21 May 2015. These events in Elgin, Forres, Huntly, Fochabers, Keith, Blackburn and Inverurie gave local communities and road users the opportunity to see and comment on the outcome of the preliminary engineering and strategic environmental assessment work Transport Scotland has been taking forward for the route east of Nairn to Aberdeen. A copy of the exhibition material is available below.

A consultation period ran from 11 May to 22 June 2015 to seek feedback on the outcome of the preliminary engineering and environmental assessment work. Transport Scotland has reviewed all feedback received and has issued responses to consultees. A copy of the responses to frequently asked questions is available at the relevant link below.

Exhibition materials

May 2015 Public Exhibition Material

The consultation period following the exhibitions closed on 22 June 2015 and Transport Scotland addressed the main themes raised during the consultation in a Frequently Asked Questions document that was issued in September 2015.

November 2013 Public Exhibition Material

Environmental Challenges

The A96 passes through, or close to, outstanding areas of wildlife, scenic and historic significance, with a wide range of nationally and internationally designated sites, including:

  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):
    areas that best represent Scotland’s natural heritage, including the diversity of plants, animals and habitats, soils, rocks and landforms, or a combination of features
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA):
    sites designated under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives as internationally important for rare or threatened habitats and species
  • Ramsar sites:
    wetland areas of international importance, supporting large populations of birds, invertebrates and other species
  • Scheduled Monuments / Battlefields:
    sites and features protected for their cultural and historic significance

A96 dualling-related effects in and around such areas must be carefully considered through early design phases, and sensitively managed through construction phases.

It is extremely important that this built and natural heritage is conserved, not only for its inherent beauty and value, but also for its contribution to the tourist industry.

Transport Scotland continues to engage with key statutory authorities including Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Historic Scotland to determine effective solutions to these environmental challenges.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

The A96 Dualling Programme will manage the process of design, local level environmental impact assessment and the progress of construction activities along the route between Inverness and Aberdeen.

Transport Scotland appointed CH2M HILL to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to assess the route-wide constraints, issues and opportunities associated with A96 corridor transport intervention and improvement options, in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.

A two-tier SEA approach was delivered:

  • Tier 1 SEA considered six strategic intervention options for the A96 transport corridor, covering both road and rail, to assess the potential for significant environmental effects at the ‘plan/ policy’ level; and
  • Tier 2 SEA considered a range of road improvement strategy options at the more detailed ‘programme’ level. These options considered alternative ways of providing a dual carriageway between Inverness and Aberdeen.

SEA outputs will inform more detailed design and development of route options at future stages of development, as well as project level Environmental Impact Assessments which will be delivered under the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) assessment processes.

The first SEA Environmental Report detailing the outcome of the Tier 1 assessment was published for consultation on 25 September 2014 and the consultation closed on 6 November 2014. The Tier 1 SEA informed the A96 Dualling Inverness to Aberdeen Strategic Business Case.

The second SEA Environmental Report detailing the outcome of the Tier 2 assessment was published for consultation on 11 May 2015. This consultation closed on 22 June 2015. The Tier 2 SEA informs the A96 Dualling Inverness to Aberdeen Stage 1 Assessment Report.

Transport Scotland has concluded the Strategic Environmental Assessment process for the A96 Dualling Programme. An SEA Post Adoption Statement has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. This statement is the last formal output of the SEA process for the Dualling Programme and outlines how the assessment findings and the comments received through the consultation process have been taken into account.

Sustainability Strategy

Embedding sustainability in new infrastructure projects is a key concern for the Scottish Government as a way of ensuring the investment of public money maximises the social, economic and environmental aspects of the Government’s agenda. Sustainability objectives have been developed to reflect the existing A96 Dualling Programme objectives, the needs of the A96 corridor and its communities, and the opportunities offered by a programme of this scale. The A96 Dualling Sustainability Strategy outlines Transport Scotland’s priorities and approach to sustainability across the programme.

Preliminary Engineering Services

Transport Scotland appointed Jacobs UK Ltd to undertake the Preliminary Engineering Assessment for the dualling of the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen. It has been progressed in accordance with a Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) Stage 1 Assessment.

A Stage 1 Assessment involves:

  • Identification of baseline (existing) conditions and constraints
  • Developing indicative improvement strategies
  • Evolving route wide strategies for key elements (such as junctions, lay-bys and the likes)

Assessing the engineering challenge

The Preliminary Engineering Assessment process considered improvement strategies to improve the route which meet the objectives of the scheme and identified the engineering, environmental, traffic and economic constraints, advantages and disadvantages of broadly defined improvement strategies.

Improvement strategies

Factors considered when looking at ways to improve the existing route and develop a full dual carriageway included:

  • Applying the appropriate design standards for improvement strategies to ensure safe and efficient proposals are developed
  • The overall condition and feasibility of improving the existing road, including structures and pavement condition, drainage and alignment geometry
  • Opportunities to provide environmental enhancement through the removal of strategic traffic from town centres
  • Topography of the area
  • Problems associated with drainage and ground conditions
  • Environmental constraints
  • Junction and access provision
  • Lay-bys and rest area requirements

Surveying the corridor

To help us deliver our plans, a significant amount of survey work is taking place along the A96 Corridor.

Transport Scotland and its consultants continue to engage with specialist groups and landowners and continue to visit the area to collect data. This is helping to identify constraints and assess the impacts of a wide range of environmental factors such as ecology, land use, archaeology, geology and drainage.

Extensive traffic surveys have been carried out along the route to improve the understanding of traffic volumes and patterns.

Aerial topographical surveys in conjunction with land surveys have been completed, the data from which will be used to generate computer ground models of the corridor.

DMRB Stage 1 Report

The DMRB Stage 1 Report is now complete and is published in full at the links below:

DMRB Stage 1 Assessment Report

A non-motorised user strategy has been developed and is available on the link below:

Contact the team

For all general enquiries please get in touch with us at:

A96 dualling team
Transport Scotland
Buchanan House
58 Port Dundas Road
G4 0HF 

Tel: 0141 272 7100
Email: A96Dualling@transport.gov.scot

Media Enquiries 

Transport Scotland Press Office: 0141 272 7195 
Email: media@transport.gov.scot

The press team also provides a 24 hour out-of-hours media service for urgent media calls only which can be reached by calling 077609-90893.