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Scottish Government Offer Update on A9 Dualling Programme as 2025 Completion Date Becomes Unachievable

The Scottish Government have revealed that the A9 Dualling Programme will not be completed in full by 2025.

In a new update the Government laid out the way forward for the dualling on the A9 between Perth and Inverness. The recent procurement competition for the Tomatin to Moy Project saw just one tender submission in the most recent challenge faced by the project.

Speaking in an update Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth said: “It is true that the target date set always represented an ambitious challenge. It was reliant on the timely and positive outcome of a range of factors such as completing public and stakeholder consultation; statutory approval processes; market capacity; supply chain availability and availability of funding, all of which have been significantly impacted by the events I outlined earlier.  This has made this 2025 date simply unachievable.

“Transport Scotland is urgently considering a range of different options to provide Ministers advice on the most efficient way in which to dual the remaining sections. That consideration will include updating the evaluation of options involving the use of design & build contracts, to reflect changes to contractual terms and conditions developed from engagement with the construction industry.  I expect to have that advice by Autumn 2023 at which time I will update Parliament to put forward a renewed timescale for completion.

“Our investment of over £430 million to date means much has already been achieved and while much is still to be done, this Government is absolutely committed to completing the A9 Dualling programme.”

Ms Gilruth went on to speak about the immediate road safety concerns following a number of fatal accidents which occurred on the route in the second half of 2022 saying: “I announced an investment of approximately £5 million in additional road safety measures for the A9 back in December. I am pleased to confirm that these have now commenced and are progressing well, as confirmed by BEAR Scotland at the A9 Safety Group last week in Inverness.

“This includes enhancements to signing and road markings, initially between Birnam and Dalguise, and installation of eight electronic signs to display safety messages at key locations between Perth and Inverness. Furthermore, a road safety campaign targeting driver fatigue will begin on 13 February and preparations for a drive on the left campaign are well underway ahead of an Easter launch.”

Following the announcement Mark Ruskell the Scottish Green MSP for Perthshire raised his concerns and encouraged the Scottish Government to prioritise urgent safety improvements measures at key junctions along the A9, including the Birnam and Dunkeld turning, saying: “When I speak to local communities along the A9, the message is clear. They want us to improve dangerous junctions and reduce speeds. That means directing investment where it is most needed and where it can make a real tangible difference.”

“I welcome the Minister’s emphasis on road safety. It needs to be taken seriously and prioritised ahead of dualling every last inch of the road, which will come at an astronomical cost and be likely to increase traffic and pollution.

“I also welcome the further detail on the short term road safety measures in train at the Birnam, Dunkeld and Dalguise area. I’ve today written to Transport Scotland for further clarity on these commitments.

“We must invest in genuine road safety improvements to protect lives across Scotland, but that needs funding and a real focus on what can actually work.”

“I commend the excellent work of the Birnam and Dunkeld Junctions Action Group who have been pivotal in championing these important road safety measures, and I hope that we will see delivery on that stretch of the road in the coming months.”

Perthshire North MSP John Swinney also shared his comments on the update saying:  “The dualling of the A9 is a vital project that will improve road safety and unlock economic potential across the Highlands. It is one of the most expensive infrastructure projects that the Scottish Government has ever undertaken and brings with it significant logistical challenges.

“The project has been made more difficult by a number of external factors including the pandemic, the negative effect of Brexit and the disastrous impact of the UK Government’s mini-budget.

“Whilst news of the delay to the completion of the project will undoubtedly be disappointing, it is worth noting that the Transport Minister re-iterated the Scottish Government’s absolute commitment to the completion of the A9 dualling. We are determined to complete this project, and to do so in a manner that provides good value for money for the taxpayer.

“It is worth remembering that commuters across Perthshire are already benefitting from a completed section of the A9 between Luncarty and the Pass of Birnam. I also welcomed the Minister’s confirmation that an announcement on a preferred route for the Pass of Birnam to Tay Crossing section will be made this spring.

“I will continue to liaise closely with the Transport Minister regarding this project and I remain committed to engaging with stakeholders in the local community to ensure that their views continue to be heard.”

Following the announcement Murdo Fraser the MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, who has been critical of the timetable for the dualling in the past, took to social media to share his views on the update, tweeting:  “Absolutely shocking news that the long-delayed A9 dualling project – promised by the SNP by 2025 – has been delayed again. I asked the Transport Secretary if there was a new date but there won’t be one until the year end. In the meantime, more lives will be lost. Simply tragic.”

The Birnam to Ballinluig A9 Community Group and the Birnam and Dunkeld Junction Action Group also reacted to the news releasing a joint statement saying: “No-one in the Dunkeld and Birnam area will be surprised by this announcement, but it makes even more urgent the meeting with Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson to discuss the dualling programme, which we requested recently, given the already intolerable delay in deciding on a preferred route for Pass of Birnam to Tay Crossing.

Our community now believes that the A9 will not be dualled past Dunkeld and Birnam in the foreseeable future. The priority for our community is to be able join and cross the busy A9 without putting ourselves and other travellers at risk. This requires safe and effective junctions to be built and we no longer accept that the creation of these junctions should be linked to the dualling project.

The recent safety improvement measures announced by the Transport Secretary are welcome but much more is needed to make this A9 section as safe as possible as soon as possible”.

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