YEAR-late A96 dualling review a 'broken promise to Moray and north east'
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A YEAR has passed since the Scottish Government said it would reveal its plan for the under-threat A96 dualling project – a delay opposition politicians have dubbed “completely unacceptable”.
The outcome of the A96 Corridor Review would be published “by the end of 2022”, according to the SNP and Green power-sharing deal which first announced the review.
And this outcome, after consultation, could see the Scottish Government’s 2011 pledge to fully dual the road by 2030 scrapped.
Moray’s Conservative MP Douglas Ross said the delay was “completely unacceptable”.
Richard Lochhead, Moray’s SNP MSP, said he also wished to see the outcome soon but delays owed to the volume of responses to a pre-review consultation.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said ministers would “imminently” receive advice on the “emerging outcomes” of the review.
In total, 4687 responses were submitted – with 88 per cent either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the A96’s number of safe overtaking opportunities.
“Millions of taxpayers’ money have been wasted on the A96 corridor review, when Moray communities simply want to see this crucial route dualled as quickly as possible,” Mr Ross said.
“A year on from when the review was supposed to be published, we have nothing but another broken promise from the SNP to people in Moray and the north east.
“SNP ministers must urgently confirm when this review will be published and outline a clear timeframe for when the A96 will be fully dualled in order to improve motorists safety and boost the local economy across Moray.”
Richard Lochhead said: “The volume of the responses means it has taken a significant amount of time to analyse views of local people.
“The SNP Government remains committed to the dualling of the road which is a commitment that was never made by Mr Ross’ party when they were in charge.”
Councillor Jérémie Fernandes (Elgin North, SNP) brought a motion to his party conference in Aberdeen earlier this year, highlighting the importance of fully dualling the A9 and A96 – which party members voted to agree.
The Elgin councillor revealed that local SNP politicians have been lobbying the Scottish Government on dualling.
“The SNP‘s position has always been clear: we want to see the dualling of the A96 from Inverness to Aberdeen,” Cllr Fernandes said.
“Local SNP representatives have been working hard to keep the A96 at the top of the agenda.
“The Bute House Agreement and the coalition with the Scottish Greens does not change that, and we must deliver on the project.”
Councillor Sandy Keith (Elgin North, Labour), a veteran Elgin bypass campaigner, said he expected SNP to “string the matter out”.
Releasing the outcome before this year’s General Election is essential, he added, because: “The people of Moray need to know now whether they have been betrayed.”
“The SNP Government has kept the people of Moray in the dark for too long regarding its intentions for the A96,” Cllr Keith said.
“They have been in power since 2007 and not one inch of dualling in Moray has been approved since. I seriously doubt their commitment to the required improvements.”
Green Councillor for Forres Draeyk van der Horn said: "An environmental review during a time of climate breakdown and nature emergency is a crucial part of any major infrastructure project and inevitably something this complex may take longer than originally planned.
"Simply dualling the A96 will not only cost billions that could be spent elsewhere, but can it be justified when we are seeing the devastating impacts of climate breakdown all around us, so we must question is this what we really want.
"I would say we need a holistic solution to transport that doesn’t involve putting all our eggs in one costly basket, we need a wider view that takes in all transport upgrade options which would be far cheaper and less disruptive to build such as improving our rail network and looking at ways in which we can bring HGVs off our roads.
"We also need a cascade of options not simply 'dual or not dual' such as bypasses, intersection upgrades and laybys for slower traffic.
"All of which need to be done to minimise impact on local communities, our natural environment, and the loss of prime agricultural land.
"Ultimately, we need to be sure we have all the facts to hand before consulting on and considering this vast multi-billion-pound project."
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “As we have made clear on a number of occasions, including through our Programme for Government, the Scottish Government is committed to improving the A96 and we will take forward an enhancements programme along the A96 corridor that improves connectivity between surrounding towns, tackles congestion and addresses safety and environmental issues.
"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, which includes a Climate Compatibility Assessment and other statutory assessments.
“The significant interest in the review’s initial consultation last year, with nearly 4,600 responses, generated 11,000 options to improve the corridor and it’s only right that appropriate time has been taken to examine and fully appraise these.
"We have been pushing forward with the detailed appraisal of the retained options and expect to provide advice to Ministers on the emerging outcomes from the robust appraisal process imminently.
"Following consideration by Ministers there will then be a consultation on the outcomes before a final decision can be reached.”