A north-east action group which hopes to change Transport Scotland’s mind on the dualling of the A96 has raised further concerns on the project, a year after the last drop-in sessions were held.
The A96 Action group, made up of a number of residents in the Garioch area, formed after worries about the routes proposed by the government around for the dualling of the A96 east of Huntly scheme.
It has been a year since the last drop in sessions were held for the public to discuss routes, with the final preferred route options initially expected last year, which will now not be delivered until the end of this year.
Part of the delay was around the unprecedented level of feedback received from the public.
The group previously warned of the environmental impact of creating the road along some of the identified routes, which would also impact farming and businesses in the area.
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Now, it has spoken out again on the impact not dualling the existing road would have, including citing Scottish Government reports that recommend “future-proofing” existing infrastructure.
It has also argued that it believes something is amiss in the plans, due to the delay.
Chairwoman of A96 Action group Lorna Anderson said: “It is doubtful that this is the only issue preventing Transport Scotland from publishing their plans for the upwards of £3bn A96 dualling and the delay is a fair indication that all is not well. In the interim, a number of other consequential things have happened that may well seal the fate for the grandiose plans to plough the A96, for the most part, through 88 miles of pristine rural countryside.
“Transport Scotland’s explanation for why sections of the existing road cannot be upgraded is because the carriageway is constrained by the standard of the existing geometry, by a high number of roadside properties and by a high density of existing junctions and accesses.
“On examination by independent civil engineers, these issues can for the most part be overcome by selecting a more appropriate road specification as directed by the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges. Transport Scotland and their consultants have applied the widest possible “rural profile” for the carriageway passing in the vicinity of properties, whereas selecting an urban and narrower profile would have enabled dualling through Inverurie and resulted in a much better outcome for the Scottish taxpayer and environment.”
She added that a report published in January lays out a framework for future infrastructure decisions in Scotland, which recommends future-proofing existing road infrastructure. It is the hope of the A96 Action Group that instead of a new road being constructed, the existing A96 can be dualled instead.
Lorna said: “The A96 should not be fully dualled between Aberdeen and Inverness, there is simply no justification. Of course people want to see the road upgraded, safety improved and dualled where necessary but not at any cost. Scotland has been presented with a once in many generations opportunity to exit Covid-19 as a greener, fairer and inclusive society. Let’s not squander the moment on outdated, wasteful and unnecessary infrastructure where the only people to benefit are road designers and contractors.”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “Our consultants are continuing the design work for the A96 Dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen scheme. However, given the current Covid-19 pandemic, only work that can be undertaken in full alignment with the government’s physical distancing measures is being carried out at this time as we look to identify a preferred route option.
“Once the current pandemic crisis is over and we can return to business as usual, we will re-evaluate the arrangements and timescales for identifying a preferred route option.”