Work to improve safety on a notorious stretch of the A9 is to get under way after a £9.6million was awarded to contractors R J MacLeod Ltd.
A completion date of spring 2020 has been set for the development works on the A9 at the Berriedale Braes hairpin.
Sixty jobs will be supported through the duration of the works.
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Cabinet secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, said: “This is a particularly challenging stretch of the A9 to navigate and this investment will improve road safety as well as minimise the need for vehicles to slow down or stop to negotiate the bend.
“The investment is also a positive development for the area which will enhance the skills development of the Scottish construction industry, with approximately 60 jobs expected to be supported in the region during construction.”
The stretch of the A9 is notorious for accidents and came out on top of the list of perilous Scottish roads to be wary of this winter, in a study carried out by motoring specialists LeaseCar.uk.
Regional MSP Rhoda Grant lodged a Parliamentary Question issue last week to determine a start date after claiming there had been a “deathly silence” over the details of the project.
Mrs Grant said: “I am really pleased the contract has been awarded.
“When work begins there is bound to be some disruption but given how dangerous the road is, we have to be glad something is being done.
“The design is not my preferred design – I had hoped they would future proof any development – but anything that makes this part of the road safer is good news.
“Other parts of the road also need upgrading and we will keep fighting or them.”
Trudy Morris, chairwoman of Caithness Transport Forum, said: “We are delighted to see that after many years of dedicated campaigning by the Chamber, Caithness Transport Forum and other local organisations, this project is finally moving ahead.
“For too long the Berriedale Braes has acted as a pinch point for travellers on the A9 north of Inverness, disrupting business and jeopardising investment in the region.
“Now that the contract has been formally awarded, we hope to see clarification on exact start dates and expected length of works very soon.
“We would urge Scottish Government to uphold their previous promise to start works within this financial year so that the North Highlands can start to see the benefit of this upgrade as soon as possible.”