A north-east MSP has encouraged the Scottish Government to “think again” about its options for dualling the A96.
It comes as north-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has taken part in NESTRANS’s 2040 consultation, which looks at the region’s transport priorities over the next 20 years.
One of the major infrastructure projects for the coming years is the dualling of the A96.
Last year, Transport Scotland rejected proposals to dual the existing road from Inverurie.
It has shortlisted two potential schemes which would require a new road to be built either north or south of the town, which has proved to be a controversial choice.
Mr Macdonald has urged the Scottish Government to rethink its proposals, and has also called on NESTRANS to “challenge the Scottish Government’s complacency.”
He said: “A lot has changed since the option of dualling the A96 on its existing line of route was rejected by Transport Scotland. The Committee on Climate Change has told governments across the UK to invest in existing assets rather than build new roads.
“The Infrastructure Commission for Scotland told the Scottish Government the same thing. The Scottish Government’s own National Transport Strategy has endorsed that approach, saying that the priority is ‘to make better use of existing capacity.’
“Above all, SNP Ministers have declared a climate emergency, and declared that existing commitments would be reviewed to make sure they don’t make the climate emergency worse. That has clearly not happened in the case of the A96.
“Rather than meekly going along with Transport Scotland’s current plans, NESTRANS should be challenging the Scottish Government’s complacency and demanding a rethink of the options for dualling the A96.
“Upgrading the existing road would deliver on the Government’s promise, but it would do so at far less cost and with far less environmental impact than building a brand new dual carriageway from Huntly to Kintore.
“The biggest-ticket transport investments in the north-east in the 2020s and 2030s should be in upgrading our rail links to the south, and upgrading existing infrastructure, not in building new roads. That would show a real commitment and understanding of the need to act on climate change.”
A spokesman for Nestrans added: “The consultation on the revised Regional Transport Strategy was launched at the end of July, and closed on Friday, October 16.
“It was promoted on social media, included a virtual online exhibition, and featured a number of briefings with key stakeholder groups, including the area’s MPs and MSPs. Accordingly, we’re pleased to see that Lewis Macdonald has contributed his views to the consultation exercise.
“Overall, we have received an encouraging number of response from individuals, community groups, stakeholder groups and partner organisations, all responding to the policies, proposals and priorities set out in the documents. Officers will now be considering the responses received, which will be reported to the Nestrans Board on November 4.
“This will provide an opportunity to discuss and debate the key issues that have emerged from the consultation exercise.
“It is currently anticipated that a finalised draft strategy will be taken to the December Board Meeting, and if approved at that stage, submitted to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity early in the New Year.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman added: “All major projects within the Scottish Government’s transport portfolio are subject to significant assessment work and challenge to ensure we deliver the right schemes and minimise impacts on the environment, and our ambitious A96 Dualling programme is no exception.
“The design and assessment work for the East of Huntly to Aberdeen stretch of the route, which is also taking into account the considerable feedback we have received from local residents, is continuing in order to identify a preferred option which we expect to announce in the coming months.
“When complete the A96 Dualling programme will bring many benefits to local communities, businesses, visitors and road users living, travelling and working along the route. These include reduced journey times, improved journey time reliability and, crucially, improve road safety for all users.”