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Anger over delay to A96 dualling review we revealed in September

By Lewis McBlane

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ANGER is mounting over the latest delay to the review into A96 – which we revealed in September.

Frustrations over the delay have received a public airing...Picture: Beth Taylor.
Frustrations over the delay have received a public airing...Picture: Beth Taylor.

After Humza Yousaf's Programme for Government announcement (September 5), we broke the news that the A96 Corridor Review was delayed yet again.

The outcome of the review, to be put to consultation, was to be published in December 2022.

Instead, however, the timeline slipped to "the first half of 2023", then to "summer", then "autumn", and – finally – we were told it would be published "in the coming months" by a Transport Scotland spokesperson.

And, since we revealed the latest delay nearly three months ago, nothing has changed.

Plans to fully dual the A96 were announced in December 2011, when the Scottish Government published its Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) containing the commitment to upgrade the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness by 2030.

But, as part of the power-sharing deal between the SNP and the Greens, a review of the project costing almost £4 million was undertaken after the Greens raised “urgent” environmental impact concerns about fully dualling the road.

That is despite a Scottish Government questionnaire which found 88% of respondents were very dissatisfied or dissatisfied with the availability of safe overtaking opportunities, 79% were not happy with the levels of traffic congestion and 76% were not satisfied with the length of journey times.

Government correspondence from September obtained by the Scottish Conservatives shows bosses warning that “extremely constrained budgets” mean “difficult choices may have to be made”.

North East MSP Liam Kerr said that SNP-Green the region's residents were being treated “second-class citizens” after the publication of a review into dualling the A96 was delayed for a third time.

“This latest delay is yet another missed deadline to add to the ever-growing book of SNP false promises on the A96," he said.

“The SNP’s farcical review of the project, which has now been delayed three times, has needlessly cost the taxpayer millions of pounds and has heaped more misery on road users who are being treated like second-class citizens.

“Almost a year on from when the review was due to be complete, Humza Yousaf continues to disrespect the North East by kicking the can down the road at every possible turn.

“This latest revelation raises doubts on if the A96 will ever be dualled under this shambolic SNP-Green coalition.

“Rather than playing political games with the safety of motorists, this should be about fully upgrading the A96 as soon as possible and delivering on a promise which the SNP made more than a decade ago.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “As the First Minister confirmed during the statement to Parliament on the Programme for Government on 5 September, the Scottish Government is fully committed to making improvements to the A96.

"The current plan is to fully dual the route and as part of this process we are undertaking a transparent, evidence-based review of the programme.

"The significant interest in the review’s initial consultation, with nearly 4,600 responses, generated 11,000 options to improve the corridor and it is only right that it has taken more time than originally anticipated to examine and fully appraise these.

"Following publication of the initial appraisal report and the accompanying consultation report at the end of last year, we continue to push forward the necessary further detailed work to inform the remaining stages of the review.

“These include a robust appraisal of the retained options alongside a Climate Compatibility Assessment and also a range of statutory assessments, with outcomes from this expected to be ready in the coming months for final public consultation, before a final decision can be reached.”

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