A lifeline link to the Highlands has been branded Scotland’s “Cinderella” road and likened to routes in Third World countries.
Politicians have demanded action to improve the busy A82 and claimed it is treated as the poor relation to the notorious A9 when it comes to investment.
Campaigners say some stretches of the main Glasgow-Oban-Fort William-Inverness road are in such poor condition they have been downgraded from 60mph to 50mph zones.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Dave Stewart now wants urgent talks with Scottish Government Transport Minister Keith Brown.
And he warned that the north economy could be badly damaged if nothing was done.
The government has spent £2.5million installing controversial average-speed cameras on the A9 between Inverness and Perth and will invest £3billion dualling the route by 2025.
Mr Stewart said last night: “When it comes to investment, it’s clear that the A82, like Cinderella, is the poor relation to other key routes for travellers in Scotland and the Highlands.
“Significant investment is needed to upgrade the road to a standard appropriate to its lifeline status for Lochaber and Argyll.”
Mr Stewart added: “The current approach of simply adding restrictions to sections of the route is quite inadequate, if we are to have a safe and efficient main trunk road for the west Highlands.
“Towns and communities here are already significantly disadvantaged by geography. The standard of the A82 only compounds the issues of cost and time they face just to stay and to do business here.”
Mr Stewart welcomed Transport Scotland’s commitment to improving certain sections of the road.
But he stressed: “The route desperately needs improvement to allow safe and efficient movement of traffic and to cut travel times. We need to see that ambition and action from Transport Scotland, to end the A82’s Cinderella status.”
Mr Stewart said the A82 suffered from a lack of investment compared with the A9.
He said: “It is valid to make these comparisons.
“The A82 is a vital road used by tourists, the business community and local people. There have been lots of frustrations about accident rates and landslides recently.
“I will be asking Transport Scotland to look very seriously at the longer term plans for the A82 so that they can redress the balance.
“Of course it is important to dual the A9, but we have got to ensure we don’t forget about other vital arteries.”
Lochaber councillor Brian Murphy said: “You could be forgiven for thinking you were in a Third World country in some parts of the west Highlands when you see the state of the road.
“About two-thirds of the A82 is sub-standard. We want to get the whole road upgraded, just single carriageway. We are not looking for a dual carriageway. For years the road has been starved of investment.”
Campaign group the A82 Partnership pointed out that Transport Scotland was spending £3billion dualling the A9, but has only spent an average of £8milion each year on the A82 over the past decade.
The partnership’s Stewart MacLean said: “At this rate it would take 375 years to spend the same amount as the A9 on the A82.
“We fully support Mr Stewart’s statement. There are three sections which have been downgraded to 50mph speed limits because of the quality of the road. They are between Tarbet and Inverarnan, Onich to Fort William and Glen Gloy to Letterfinlay.
“The priorities have to swing to the west coast.”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “We understand the importance of the A82 to communities and we are in regular discussion with them about our plans for the maintenance of the route, with £57million invested since 2007.
“We are taking forward work to improve the route between Tarbet and Inverarnan with ground investigations taking place over the next couple of months to help inform the ongoing work to design a preferred route by next summer.
“Work is also continuing on the £9.2million scheme at Pulpit Rock to remove the bottleneck there and on the construction of the £5million A82 Crianlarich Bypass.”