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YOUR VIEWS: Northern Scot A96 danger rankings find Forres and Elgin-spanning Wester Hardmuir to Fochabers section, during 2019, was road's most-dangerous stretch in five years

By Lewis McBlane

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OUR new A96 danger rankings have sparked reaction and debate among readers, with local politicians also having weighed in.

Readers shared their views on our A96 danger rankings, which saw Wester Hardmuir to Fochabers, in 2019, come top out of all years and all sections.
Readers shared their views on our A96 danger rankings, which saw Wester Hardmuir to Fochabers, in 2019, come top out of all years and all sections.

Taking to the comments section of last Wednesday's (September 20) story, Northern Scot readers on both sides shared their strong opinions on the matter, with their opinions listed below.

Using Scottish Government serious injury and death figures, released following our Freedom of Information Request, we ranked A96 sections by the rate of combined serious injuries and deaths per kilometre (along with rates of serious injuries and deaths) – across single years and a five-year average.

As a result, we revealed that the Wester Hardmuir to Fochabers stretch, in 2019, was the deadliest stretch of the trunk road in the last five years.

In that year alone, four people were killed and nine seriously injured in collisions along the 26.5 mile section, which includes Forres and Elgin.

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.

Several readers argued that current volumes of traffic make dualling the A96 an urgent priority – with one describing the A96 as being stuck in "the 1960s".

Another said, about those who blame drivers for the number of accidents on the trunk road, it would be: "more productive to push for a better road rather than criticise the people who have lost their lives on it."

However, others argued "it isn't the road" – instead blaming the "atrocious level of selfish, incompetent, me-first" drivers.

And, according to one reader, it is: "speed and impatience that cause 95 per cent of road collisions".

In the wake of the rankings, both Moray MP Douglas Ross and Moray MSP Richard Lochhead voiced their concerns about crashes on the A96.

Ms Ross described the figures as "sobering reading" and said communities are "desperate for this road to be fully dualled", pointing the finger at the SNP-Green coalition.

However Mr Lochhead, while admitting that all A96 accidents are "a cause for serious concern", highlighted that the Scottish Government is "investing in safety improvements".

And despite the outcome of the delayed A96 Corridor Review, which could impact plans to dual the trunk road, he added that "the SNP's position remains that the road should be dualled".

Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “These statistics make for sobering reading and my thoughts are with those families who are mourning the loss of a loved one who was killed on the A96.

“This only reaffirms the case for the SNP Government to get on with dualling this key route as a matter of urgency.

“They must start listening to communities across Moray who are desperate for this road to be fully dualled for the sake of road safety and boosting the local economy.

“SNP ministers must stop bowing to their anti-car Green coalition partners and commit to their previous promise of dualling the A96 by 2030.

“I will continue to pressure SNP-Green ministers to finally deliver for Moray and reduce the number of deaths and accidents on the A96.”

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “Clearly any accidents on the A96 are a cause for serious concern.

"The Scottish Government is investing in safety improvements along the corridor and the SNP’s position remains that the road should be dualled.

“The cause of accidents on any road are varied and it’s important that roads authorities continue to review the causes to ensure safety improvements can be made in the here and now.”

Readers react

Darren Copland urged people to "waken up", stating it is "time to upgrade and secure a future for Moray" by upgrading the A96, to help prevent young people leaving the area due to a lack of opportunity.

Mr Copeland writes: "Waken up. How do you expect businesses to survive and prosper if you fall behind?

"Dial up got you on the Internet, it did its job. Same as our roads.

"But would you go back? I think not.

"Time to upgrade and secure a future for Moray.

"Or even more younger generations will need to move to find employment."

Margery Swinton claimed that the road is stuck in "the 1960s" and that congestion and slow traffic was a common sight.

"Soon, people in the north east will only be able to travel around their own wee patch," she said.

"In emergencies, how can vehicles get around the slow crawling lines of vehicles, lorries tractors, combines et cetera?

"None of our roads have kept pace with the volume of vehicles using them.

"All very well to say go slower and slower – very often you are lucky to go at 30mph.

"Junctions should have been upgraded, signage improved and cleaned of coating and trees beside these signs pruned back.

"But no – it just stays like the 1960s."

Reader Andrew Whittaker took aim at those blaming drivers for the rate of accidents on the A96 in Moray.

He wrote: "To all the people saying: 'It's not the road, it's the drivers.'

"Can you explain to me why these drivers are only having accidents on the A96?

"Are they choosing to only drive badly on the A96 and then safely on other roads?

"There has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of cars on the road between 2000 and 2020.

"The simple fact is the A96 is not fit for the amount of traffic on it, it needs to be dualled.

"Taken from Roadsafe website [2017]: 'Single carriageway A roads are seven times the risk of motorways and nearly three times the risk of dual carriageway A roads.'

"I think it would be more productive to push for a better road rather than criticise the people who have lost their lives on it."

And while Matthew Gordon argued that "we can all agree to call the road dangerous would be wrong", he described it as "unsuitable" and requiring upgrades.

"There are many causes for this, many reasons," he said.

"But I think we can all agree to call the road dangerous would be wrong, but unsuitable would be a better description.

"It’s not fit for the volume of traffic that uses it, the entire A96 is the same.

"We could all fight over what drivers or vehicle types are the cause, but it’s the volume of traffic on the road that’s the issue.

"And I’m not getting at people using cars, we need to get around.

"They need to fix the roads to accommodate the traffic that’s on it."

However, those on the other side of the debate also took their opportunity to share their views.

Commenting on our story, Barry Sharpe wrote: "The road isn't dangerous. When will people realise this?"

Martin Stuart blamed "speed and impatience" for "95 per cent" of crashes, and suggested a speed limit of 55mph for a stretch of the road.

"It's speed and impatience that cause 95 per cent of road collisions," he said.

"They ain't accidents.

"A speed limit of 55 might help, until the traffic passes through Keith and reaches Forres."

And Terry Thomson also took aim at some motorists who, in his view, "should not hold a driver's license in the first place".

"It’s not the roads but the atrocious level of selfish, incompetent, me-first brigade of drivers who, to be quite honest, should not hold a driver’s licence in the first place who cause the accidents – not the roads."

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