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Scene of the crash on the A9 at Berriedale Braes. Picture by John Mowatt
Scene of the crash on the A9 at Berriedale Braes. Picture by John Mowatt

Lorry driver escapes serious injury after rolling HGV on Berriedale Braes

A lorry driver escaped without serious injury after rolling his lorry on one of the north’s most notorious stretches of road.

The HGV overturned on a bend at the Berriedale Braes in Caithness, shedding a load of gravel over the A9.

Despite extensive damage to his tipper lorry, the driver walked away without serious injury.

The incident sparked fresh calls for upgrade work on the road to be accelerated.

Yesterday’s incident came just a day after a motorcyclist was killed on the A82 at Laggan Locks after being involved in a collision with a bus.

Police yesterday named him as Ewan Smith, 48, from Renfrew.

The Berriedale incident happened early yesterday afternoon at the bottom of the south brae on the Inverness to Thurso road.

The road was closed for a spell before police began to allow traffic past.

Berriedale has been the scene of a number of serious accidents over the years, with motorists having to contend with steep inclines and a tight hairpin bend.

Lorry driver and father-of-one Bruce Cormack died in a crash in the area in September 2014 while at the wheel of one of the family firm’s vehicles.

A fatal accident inquiry later ruled that the brakes on the 41-year-old’s vehicle suffered a “sudden, multiple and catastrophic” failure at a critical point while he descended the hill.

The Scottish Government confirmed last month that a long-awaited improvement scheme will finally get under way next year and is scheduled for completion by late 2019.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said accidents such the one yesterday show why progress on the road can’t come soon enough.

She said: “First of all it is good that the driver seems to be alright. A lorry can be replaced at the end of the day.”

She added: “Things like this show why changes are needed and it has been far too long in coming.

“There is progress but it will still be some years before it is completed.

“You see problems like this all too often and thankfully nobody has been seriously injured this time.”

She said frustration among the business community about the road was understandable and also highlighted concerns about increased ambulance journeys between Caithness and Inverness as a reason for accelerating work on the road.

Mrs Grant added: “It is a situation that needs to be addressed. People are badly served by this road.”

In response, a spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “‎As has been well-documented in recent weeks, we are working to progress much-needed improvements to the A9 at Berriedale Braes.

“Having received the go ahead last December following the public local Inquiry, we recently published the made orders as a clear signal of our commitment to deliver this scheme.

“Subject to completing the statutory procedures, we expect to start the procurement process for the main construction contract for this project later this year, with works planned to start in 2018.

“When completed, the scheme will improve journey time reliability and road safety for all using this vital route.”

The road at Berriedale reopened after 5pm yesterday after the overturned lorry was recovered.

It was reopened under temporary traffic lights to allow for repairs to the road.

Meanwhile, police named Mr Smith as the motorcylist killed in the accident between Invergarry and Spean Bridge on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old died at the scene after colliding with a Scottish Citylink bus on a section of the notorious A82.

The driver and passengers on board the bus service between Inverness and Fort William didn’t suffer any significant injuries as a result.

A replacement bus took the passengers away after they were interviewed by the police.

A spokeswoman for the bus company said: “Our first thoughts and deepest condolences are with Mr Smith’s family. We are assisting police with their inquiries into the circumstances of the accident.”

Sarah Sutton, manager of the Invergarry Hotel, said: “It was such a dreadful tragedy. They have to close the road after something like this, but I have never seen tailbacks like it before.”

Elsewhere yesterday three cars and a van were involved in a collision on the northbound slip road off the A9 to the Raigmore Interchange in the outskirts of Inverness.

Nobody was seriously injured and the road reopened after the vehicles were recovered.

Roads maintenance staff put sand on the road because of a fuel spillage.