A parliamentary committee has launched a consultation into safety measures for Scotland’s notorious A9 road.
The Government has seen increasing calls from campaigners to urgently complete dualling of the 112-mile stretch between Perth and Inverness which claimed 13 lives last year – its highest death toll in 20 years.
Thousands signed a petition launched by road safety campaigner Ms Hansler urging ministers to deliver on their 2011 commitment for the dual carriageway and establish a national memorial to commemorate those who have lost their lives onmini the road.
The dualling of Scotland’s longest road – running for 230 miles from Scrabster, near Thurso, to Dunblane, near Stirling – was set to be completed in 2025 as part of a £3bn project but has suffered delays.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Scotland) said they have known “for many years” that the 2025 target would not be met.
Around 11 miles have been turned into a dual carriageway in ten years, with an estimated 77 miles of road yet to be upgraded.
The commmitee want to hear from road users, communities along the route and businesses who rely on the A9 about the impact of the continued delays to the dualling of the road.
They also wants to hear their views about the best approach to carrying out the dualling work, about interim road safety measures, and about the petitioner’s call for a national memorial to those who have lost their lives.
The consultation will be launched at Kincraig Community Hall following a meeting between Committee Convener Jackson Carlaw MSP, Petitioner Laura Hansler, members of the A9 Dual Action Group and local community and business representatives.
Carlaw said: “The dualling of the A9 is a matter of significant public interest and safety concern, not only to the people of the Highlands but also to others all over Scotland.
“The Committee are encouraging everyone to take part in the consultation and share their views, to help us understand local priorities, the impact that continued delays are having on businesses and the economy and what the strategy for dualling should be going forward.
“The continued loss of life on the A9 is a tragically regular reminder of the need to improve the safety of the route and the consultation offers a vital opportunity for everyone to contribute their thoughts on how best to do this.
“Your input matters, and we want to hear from road users, communities along the route and businesses alike.
“This is an opportunity to make your voices heard and to consider how to create a safer and more efficient A9 that protects all those who travel along it.”
She said: “From the outset the Scottish Parliament’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee have recognised the gravity and importance of the petition, which has significant support locally, but also from people right across Scotland.
“It’s extremely encouraging that the Convener has chosen to launch the Committee’s call for views in Kincraig, to meet with local people and businesses, at the heart of the communities that are affected daily by the A9.
“Direct community engagement is essential for us moving forward and this consultation will give everyone with an interest in the A9 the opportunity to share their views and play their role in holding the Scottish Government to account on their commitment to dual the road between Perth and Inverness.”
The public consultation is being held on the Scottish Parliament’s Your Priorities engagement site, which asks questions around four themes; the strategy for dualling the A9, the impact on local businesses and the economy, road safety and the establishment of a memorial.
The consultation will open from Wednesday August 9 and run until September 15.
Following the consultation, the Committee will invite Màiri McAllan MSP, the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition to provide evidence and respond to the findings.
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said “The Scottish Government remains firmly committed to completing the dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness.
“We are currently considering the optimal delivery programme to provide greater certainty to the public, businesses and other stakeholders around robust new timescales having taken account of the impacts of the ongoing statutory process, the effects of the Covid pandemic, economic uncertainty and the current cost crisis.
“This is a complex exercise which looks at a number of factors including how the project can be delivered most efficiently by the industry, whilst minimising disruption to road users and helping to support economic recovery post-COVID.
“This work is expected to conclude in Autumn 2023 and an update on a new timescale for completion will be provided to the Scottish Parliament at that time.”