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REVEALED: Grim record for Forres and Elgin A96 stretch which, during 2019, was road's most-dangerous section in five-year ranking

By Lewis McBlane

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THE A96 section spanning Forres and Elgin, in 2019, was the deadliest stretch of the trunk road in the last five years, a Northern Scot FOI request has revealed.

The deadly section of the A96 runs through the heart of Elgin...Picture: Beth Taylor.
The deadly section of the A96 runs through the heart of Elgin...Picture: Beth Taylor.

In that year alone, four people were killed and nine seriously injured in collisions along the 26.5 mile section between Wester Hardmuir and Fochabers, according to the new figures.

This makes the Moray stretch the A96's most dangerous section per kilometre, during a single year, between 2019 and August 2023.

The rate of those killed or seriously injured per kilometre during that year was 80 per cent higher than the five-year average between Inverness and Aberdeen.

Released by Transport Scotland in response to our FOI request, the figures detail how many serious injuries and deaths occurred each year on different sections of the A96.

On the road between Inverness and Aberdeen, since 2019, 11 people have lost their lives and 82 have been seriously injured.

By charting these numbers against the length of each section, we have worked out the rate of injuries and deaths along the north east's lifeline road for each full year, and the average yearly rate since 2019.

Plans to dual the Wester Hardmuir to Fochabers section by 2030 are currently in limbo – subject to the A96 Corridor Review.

In September we revealed that the outcomes of the review, originally scheduled to be released in December 2022, would face further delays and would now be released "in the coming months".

First Minister Humza Yousaf, who promised to stick to bypass pledges while talking to the Northern Scot during a visit to Moray, revealed no details of the A96 dualling project's future within his Programme for Government speech.

Coming second in the rankings, to Moray's brutal 2019, is the 2022 rate, and projected 2023 rate, for the A96 between Inverness and Nairn.

Figures released for 2023 only include the period until August this year, but if the toll on the Highland stretch continues at the same rate, 2023 will tie last year's record rate for the section since 2019.

If the projection is accurate, the stretch will have been 46 per cent more dangerous than the A96's five-year average for two years running.

Overall, the section had the A96's highest serious injury and death rate over the five-year span and was 10 per cent more dangerous than both the A96 between Inverness than Aberdeen and the A9 Perth to Inverness over the same time period.

Despite being excluded from the looming A96 Corridor Review, the slow progress of plans to dual the section Inverness to Nairn has been widely criticised.

Questioned on A96 dualling yesterday (September 19) at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's transport committee, Transport Minister Fiona Hyslop said the government's "priority" is "the Inverness to Nairn section."

Pushed on the timescales for the dualling of the A96 by North East Scotland MSP Douglas Lumsden, Ms Hyslop could not stick to the Scottish Government's 2030 pledge.

She said: “I think the sensible thing is to see what the review says in terms of the assessments of the options because clearly whatever options are then recommended, will have an impact in terms of the timescale for production of that, as will the capital availability for that.

“Currently the proposal is to dual the A96 with the priority being the Inverness to Nairn section.”

She added: “Clearly we want to meet timescales that have been committed to.

“We are talking about timescales from 2011 coming out of a period which is 12 years ago. I understand all governments need to be held accountable.

“This government has been in power for a considerable amount of time. We have had focus on a number of major transport areas. The review has taken place and you will receive that once the assessment has been done.”

Mr Lumsden, also the shadow cabinet secretary for transport, said “It’s glaringly and shamefully obvious from the transport minister’s response at committee that there is no intention to dual the A96 between Aberdeen and Huntly or build a bypass at Inverurie and Keith.

“She openly admitted that the Inverness to Nairn section was more of a priority and during the SNP’s time in government, they’ve been more focussed on other projects which is a kick in the teeth to north-east residents."

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