3. Context for this SEA
In terms of the strategic transport infrastructure policy context, SEA was conducted for the National Transport Strategy (NTS, 2006) and the national Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR, 2008).
The STPR recommended that the A9 should be dualled to deliver a combination of road safety, reliability and strategic economic objectives. The Government accepted these recommendations and made a commitment to A9 dualling in the 2011 Infrastructure Investment Plan.
Figure 1 SEA cascade from the National Transport Strategy (2006) to A9 Dualling Programme and Projects
The high level aspiration for full dualling of the A9 is that it should be designed to deliver an All Purpose Dual Carriageway with the following general features:
- Full grade separation of junctions to remove at-grade junctions and provide links for non-motorised user crossings/ accesses;
- No gaps in the central reserve, to prevent right-turns across carriageways;
- Route, signage and lighting design to minimise overall visual impact.
There are a number of challenges to be addressed:
- Reducing accident severity;
- New bridges and/ or bridge widening;
- Proximity of the Highland Mainline Railway and public utilities in constrained areas;
- Lay-by provisions;
- Accessibility for non-motorised users (NMU), including pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians, links to public transport;
- Access to recreation, including the Cairngorms National Park; and
- Rock cuttings, high carbon soils and minimising the impacts of construction.
This SEA aims to integrate environmental considerations into the very early stages of programme development, delivering a route-wide approach which:
- is roughly equivalent to a Stage 1 environmental assessment, as required by the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB);
- provides a link between STPR work and later DMRB route alignment selection and design;
- identifies and collates the range of environmental constraints around the A9 between Perth and Inverness;
- assesses significant issues and risks;
- considers whether a particular issue would affect where the route goes;
- consults the public and statutory authorities with environmental responsibilities;
- with the A9 Preliminary Engineering Services work (A9 PES) helps to identify the most constrained sections of the route. This will inform the overarching programme, in terms of identifying which sections could potentially be brought forward in the design and construction programme and which should be considered for later delivery to allow time for additional studies and design consultations.