Roads chiefs were warned repeatedly that the design of a new safety scheme on the notorious A9 was flawed – but still spent £2.6million building it.
Residents of Moy and Tomatin claimed last night that their warnings about the plans to create an overtaking lane on the Perth to Inverness route south of the Highland capital had been ignored.
One woman said that millions had been spent building a “death trap” and a local councillor said the cash would have been better invested in the long-awaited dualling of the road.
Transport Scotland has closed the northbound overtaking lane, just weeks after it was completed, and admitted there may be problems with the design.
The lane was coned-off after a motorist was almost involved in a head-on collision as she waited in the southbound filter lane to turn right to her home at Lynebeg.
The scheme, known as a 2+1, was on the drawing board for seven years before construction started earlier this year.
In May last year, representatives of Transport Scotland and Scotland Transerv attended a meeting of Strathdearn Community Council where, according to residents, the dangers of the design were spelled out.
Denise Barley, of Lauriston, Tomatin, said: “The local community tried and tried again to get Transerv to see sense long before work began.
“Letters were written and a man from Transerv was called to a community council meeting to have the dangers spelled out for him.
“At another meeting our concerns were expressed to a representative of Highland Council. Letters were written to our MP, Danny Alexander.
“Millions of pounds were thrown away on creating a death trap in defiance of the views and warnings of the local people.
“Why did they have to wait until it was built and they could see with their own eyes what had been obvious to all people with any imagination or understanding?”
Gordon Grant, of Raigbeg, Tomatin, said: “I suggested that it would be better to lengthen the nearby section of existing dual carriageway further south.”
He said engineers involved in the project were not willing to consider local views.
He added: “They were just there because they had to be. We told them at the time that it was dangerous.”
Community council chairwoman Vivien Roden said a letter of objection was sent to Transport Scotland detailing concerns about how short the two-thirds of a mile overtaking lane was and the positioning of the Lynebeg junction.
She said: “They said ‘it’s fine’ but it is much more dangerous now.
“They did not really listen to us.”
Inverness South councillor Jim Crawford, whose ward includes Moy, said: “The money would have been better spent on dualling part of the road.”
Mr Alexander wrote to Transport Scotland in February 2008 raising the issue and was told that the organisation planned to meet with residents to discuss the concerns.
The Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP, who is now chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “Clearly if a piece of work has been done amid safety concerns, this development is deeply worrying.
“I would think Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government and ministers should have had plenty of time to plan these works in a way that was both cost effective and safe.
“If they have put in place a piece of investment that is not safe, that begs some very, very serious questions about the way in which these things are planned and organised.”
But Transport Scotland defended the scheme last night, and claimed it met its design standards.
A spokeswoman also said that a survey at the site had raised concerns about driver behaviour.
She added: “Transport Scotland welcomes the opinions of local communities in advance of any scheme.
“During the statutory processes for this particular scheme, an objection was received from the community council. As the scheme was designed to meet the relevant standards for a junction of this type and had been through the safety audit process, it was possible to take it forward as promoted.”
Road safety campaigner Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “It is extremely disappointing and frustrating that the SNP government has spent millions on a 2+1 lane on the A9 that seems to increase the risk of accidents on the road.
“The irony is that I raised the issue of 2+1 lanes with Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson in January 2009 and he said at the time that ‘there is clear evidence that when we put in 2+1s – three lanes – at appropriate places there are significant safety benefits’.
“Road users want to see long term and lasting improvements to the A9.
“It is clear that 2+1 lanes are just a stop-gap to full dualling and the SNP government has wasted money making the A9 even more confusing and dangerous.
“I will continue to campaign to see the A9 dualled in its entirety between Perth and Inverness.”