Posted by: hesnotthemessiahhesaverynaughtboy | December 10, 2008

SNP to dual A9 and A96

Welcome news indeed – the Scottish National Party (SNP) has launched its Strategic Transport Projects Review, and listed dualling of the A9 and A96 as key priorities, which is absolutely welcome.

The coverage on the BBC underlines the white elephant in the room, though – that much of this development plan really hinges on getting a cut-price Firth of Forth bridge. Which could prove terribly optimistic.

Running a business in the Highlands I’m acutely aware of the transport limitations, and that dualling the A9 is an essential part of connecting Inverness with the major centres of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Additionally welcome is the dualling of the A96 between Inverness and Nairn, as this is an absolutely key link to Inverness Airport (aka Dalacross Airport), which is growing in importance as a transport centre for business as well as domestic users.

As a general consumer in the Highlands, despite living near Inverness, I’m acutely aware of the problems with deliveries from the rest of the UK, as a number of sites in England simply will not deliver to anywhere in the Highlands, or else will do so at an extra charge.

The review also covers a number of concerns about various road across the Highlands, which were voted as unpopular in a survey a couple of years ago, so seems well-targeted.

So the Strategic Transport Projects Review is certainly very welcome.

But…it has to be cautiously welcomed.

Much of the review seems to basically cover every transport project that has been suggested as being required, so the review reads more as an inventory of outstanding work – with no timescales attached other than completion within 20 years.

The problem here is that 20 years is an awfully long time in politics, and with the nasty opposition fighting in Holyrood, it remains to be seen whether the review is an action plan or an optional shopping list.

The transport issues highlighted in the report certainly deserve a lot of attention, but the competition for each one to be prioritised is likely to be high.

While I would expect the dualling of the A9 to come sooner rather than later, other smaller projects may find themselves pushed further and further back, and much seems to be running on a cheap Firth of Forth crossing.

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