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£800million to be spent on Aberdeen roads… And still traffic misery might not be over

A montage showing the plans for roads improvements around Aberdeen
A montage showing the plans for roads improvements around Aberdeen

Thousands of north-east commuters will still not be able to travel into Aberdeen any faster after £800million is spent on the city bypass and third Don crossing, it has emerged.

A shock new study has found that by 2033 there will be hardly any difference in journey times from Peterhead and Fraserburgh to Aberdeen compared to today.

Just one minute is predicted to be cut from trips heading north from the Granite City – but the length of commutes into Aberdeen are expected to rise.

The forecast has been made despite a “significant impact” expected on traffic flows around the city from the completion of the £745million Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR), dualling of the Balmedie to Tipperty section of the A90, an £18million new bridge over the River Don, and a £30million upgrade of the notorious Haudagain roundabout.

However, campaigners last night claimed that the bypass was three decades “too late” and that the region’s economy will be “seriously impacted” unless the A90 is dualled all the way to Peterhead.

Haudagain roundabout traffic
Haudagain roundabout traffic
Traffic on Aberdeen's King Street
Traffic on Aberdeen’s King Street

The study, produced for north-east transport partnership Nestrans, said that most journey times would be cut by a maximum of 5% by 2023, but that any benefits will have reduced or have been reversed by 2033.

There would be a 1% increase in times if drivers are going into the city from the north, but reductions of up to 3% – just more than one minute – on journeys north from Aberdeen.

Councillor Tom Malone, who represents Peterhead South and Cruden, said: “One of the problems with the AWPR is that it is 30 years too late.

“We’ve thousands more houses planned here over the next 15 or 20 years, and yet no plans as yet to dual the A90.

“If it isn’t dualled it is going to seriously impact on the potential of the north-east to grow economically. If it’s not dualled then we’re not going to see the realisation of the Energetica corridor.”

Researchers said journey times will be impacted by soaring traffic flows over coming years, with thousands of new homes planned for Peterhead, Ellon and Blackdog.

By 2033, there is expected be a 50% rise in journeys on the A90 between Ellon and Peterhead in both directions, as well as a rise of more than 90% at Blackdog, while on the A952 an increase of 50% is due south of Mintlaw.

Proposed design for improvements to the Haudagain Roundabout
Proposed design for improvements to the Haudagain Roundabout

Nestrans is investigating ways to address the problem over coming months – drawing up options which are expected to include dualling the A90 north of Ellon, as well as the construction of the first rail lines in the area.

The report highlighted an analysis that shows traffic flows on the A90 between Ellon and Toll of Birness are already “in excess of that recommended for a single carriageway”.

Average speeds on the A90 and A952 were also found to be “considerably lower” than speed limits – about 15mph lower – due to the high number of heavy goods vehicles and the lack of overtaking lanes.

Work is under way on the long-awaited AWPR – which will connect with the A90 at Stonehaven and Charleston to the south of Aberdeen to Blackdog in the north – and is due for completion at the end of 2017.

The Scottish Government has said it will slash times on a range of journeys across the region, almost halving the time it takes to get from Stonehaven to Dyce, Peterculter to Bridge of Don, and Cove to Kirkhill.

The figures in the Nestrans report specifically highlight journeys to Aberdeen from Ellon, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

Work on the AWPR outside Aberdeen at the Miltimber junction
Work on the AWPR outside Aberdeen at the Miltimber junction

Mark McDonald, SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, said: “What we can say is that the introduction of the bypass and improvements at the Haudagain will result in a an improved transport experience for the vast majority of commuters.

“Looking ahead, to the longer term, one can’t say for certain what developments will occur from the strategic development plan, and what the staging of these developments will be, but it will be expected that any future development that results in population and transport growth would be accompanied by appropriate infrastructure improvements.”

Lewis Macdonald, north-east Labour MSP, said: “These are challenging findings and they demonstrate the scale of the challenge if economic opportunity to the north of the city is to be supported.

“I think the improvements that will be secured now, in terms of reducing journey times from Peterhead and Fraserburgh to points to the south of Aberdeen, will be more encouraging.

“But these numbers suggest that the only way we can get the full benefit is if it’s possible to create the right kind of public transport, encouraging people to leave their cars at home and use park and ride.”

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