TWO lives could be saved each year by installing average-speed cameras on the notorious A9 Inverness-Perth road, Transport Minister Keith Brown said yesterday.
And since the cost of every fatal road accident was about £2million, the saving of one life would cover the cost of the 100 controversial cameras, he said.
Mr Brown added that the number of serious-injury accidents would be reduced substantially by the camera system, already being used on the A77 Glasgow-Stranraer road.
He also insisted there was no chance of the A9 being dualled any earlier than planned because of the sheer scale of the £3billion project – the most expensive transport scheme in Scottish history.
However, anti-camera campaigners said the Scottish Government was focusing its efforts in the wrong direction and claimed the real problem was dangerous overtaking rather than excessive speed.
Mr Brown spoke out yesterday as he visited a team carrying out survey work ahead of the dualling project – which will cost more than the M74, the new Queensferry Crossing and Aberdeen’s bypass put together.
He made it clear the dualling programme was a long-term project due to its challenging scale, pointing out that the £600,000 survey being carried out would cover an area of more than 54,000 acres – the equivalent of 30,000 football pitches – and include more than 100 new junctions.
“Looking at the experience of the A77, there has been a 46% reduction in fatalities and serious injuries,” he said.
“That means the projection for the A9 would be two fatalities less a year and substantially fewer serious injuries, which is important because of the personal tragedy to the families of those involved in these accidents.
“It also costs about £2million for each fatal accident due to the public agencies that have to attend and the subsequent inquiries.”
Concerns have been raised that the cameras would lead to frustration as queues built up behind lorries on the A9. Mr Brown said: “We take on the issue about frustration, but speed is also an issue and average-speed cameras help to deal with that by changing driver behaviour.
“We are also considering new evidence which could result in the speed limit for HGVs being increased from 40mph to 50mph.”
He added that the average speed of HGVs on the A9 was now 51mph and the cameras would mean better enforcement of speed limits.
Mike Burns, founder of the A9 Speed Cameras Are Not the Answer campaign, said yesterday statistics showed overtaking on the A9 caused considerably more accidents than speed. And he claimed the A9 could not be compared with the A77 as the Glasgow-Stranraer road had undergone substantial upgrading before the cameras were installed.
He added: “If they were serious about addressing the actual problem, they would be investigating European camera systems, which stop overtaking.
“They are relying more on a scare tactic than addressing the problem.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart said it was important to reduce fatalities but he was not convinced cameras were the answer. He said: “I believe the best way of reducing fatalities and other accidents is to have the road completely dualled.”
Mr Brown said: “This road should have been dualled decades ago, but we are the first government to commit to doing this and we will do it.”
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