A community group has slammed the Scottish Government’s ambitions to dual the A96 as a “white elephant” after a petition calling for the project to be scrapped attracted more than 300 signatures.
Just before Christmas, Transport Scotland revealed its favoured route for upgrading the A96 between Huntly and Aberdeen – part of the overall £3 billion, 86-mile long dualling project between Inverness and Aberdeen.
The proposed new stretch of road between Huntly and Aberdeen would be more than 22 miles long and include six grade-separated junctions and crossings over the River Don, River Urie and the Aberdeen to Inverness railway.
Although Transport Scotland has carried out a great deal of consultation with local communities, there are still a great deal of concerns about the plans.
An online petition appealing for the Scottish Government to “take the new road off the table, improve existing infrastructure, and invest where we’ll need it in the years to come” had last night gained the signatures of at least 341 people.
The petition said: “The proposal retains the existing A96 and recommends an entirely new highway that carves its way through remote farmland and woodlands, destroying agriculture, livelihoods and the way of life for people who currently live far from any roads.
“This is not a dualling of the A96, and should not be presented as such.
“It is a major addition to the existing road network with significant economic, environmental and social costs, which cannot be justified.”
One person who backed the petition was Dave Pert, spokesman for the Logie Elphinstone Community Action group.
He said: “The data case, which has always been shaky for the A96 project, is now several years out of date.
“The traffic volumes they used don’t take into account the oil crash, and now we’re seeing with Covid that home-working is becoming the norm and offices are closing and so it is likely to remain the norm for the future, so that case is blown out of the water.
“It’s analogous to HS2, it’s presented as one big shiny road that will solve everything, but Aberdeenshire’s infrastructure is very much built for the 1950s, you can’t get from say Insch to Fraserburgh in anything resembling a straight line without driving through farms on the way.
“It’s a white elephant, and means people from the central belt would be able to get to Inverness five minutes quicker, without spending any money in the local economy here.
“If Transport Scotland really wanted to make a real difference, they would commit to a 20-year programme to bringing all the roads around Aberdeenshire up to at least a late 20th century standard and that would create real jobs too.”
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “Following detailed assessment work and consideration of feedback received, we have identified a preferred option between east of Huntly and Aberdeen which will include improved journey time and reliability for trunk road traffic, strengthening connections to Aberdeen City and between communities in Aberdeenshire improving road safety and providing opportunities for active travel.
“We are keen to let local communities and road users have their say on our proposals and we would encourage anyone interested in our plans to view the virtual exhibition and give us their views.
“As we develop the preferred option in greater detail, individuals, communities and businesses affected by the work will be kept fully informed and their feedback carefully considered.”