Furious commuters suffered gridlock yesterday as huge jams built up on the first real rush-hour test of the Longman Roundabout traffic lights.
The longest queues were on the southbound carriageway, with traffic stretching back across the Kessock Bridge as far as the North Kessock junction.
A much-vaunted trial to alter the sequencing of the controversial traffic lights began on Monday, though the Bank Holiday meant traffic was lighter than usual.
However, traffic jams from the roundabout, combined with a broken-down vehicle at rush hour, led to major delays for commuters trying to reach the Highland capital from the north.
Ultimately, the roundabout is due to be replaced by a flyover carrying the A9 Perth to Thurso road – but Transport Scotland are attempting to revise the lights to prevent regular jams in the interim.
Bear Scotland, who manage the A9 on behalf of Transport Scotland, said it was early in the trial process and urged drivers to be patient as they worked at the roundabout.
But politicians and business leaders called for the roads agency to take another look at the lights.
Conon Bridge-based Councillor Alister MacKinnon was caught up in tailbacks as he attempted to head into Inverness before 8am – and then received complaints from constituents who were also caught in the queues later in the morning.
The Dingwall and Seaforth ward member has now pledged to take up the issue with Bear Scotland, branding the tailbacks “unacceptable”.
He said: “I came over before 8am and took about 10 minutes to get through the lights.
“I’ve since had three constituents complaining directly to me about the congestion on the bridge.
“I fully intend to take this issue up with Bear Scotland.
“I know they are running a trial but this is unacceptable if it continues like this.”
He said that when he was crossing the longest tailbacks were on the southbound lane back over the Kessock Bridge, while the northbound A9 was also congested.
However, he said Longman Road was quieter at that time.
Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol reckoned soundings from business colleagues suggested the traffic lights adjustment had made little impact in terms of easing the flow of traffic.
He said: “Monday might have been easier due to the fact that it was a bank holiday and some of the businesses were off.
“It’s too early to come to any conclusion. I am still of the view that I cannot see why the lights need to be there at all other than during peak times.
“I, like most road users at that junction, have been caught on lights of an evening and through the night when there’s absolutely no traffic on the roundabout or the approaches.
“I would urge Transport Scotland to reconsider. I cannot see there’s any rationale for them maintaining the stance that the lights will remain on 24 hours a day.”
David Stewart MSP has been a regular critic of the roundabout and its traffic light system.
He added: “There’s no doubt that at peak times the roundabout and the bridge struggles to cope with the volume of traffic attempting to use it.
“This causes problems for people trying to get to their work on time, problems for hauliers and also for tourists visiting the Highlands.”
A spokeswoman for Bear Scotland said: “The trial at the Longman Roundabout is in the very early stages and we appreciate the patience of drivers while it is being carried-out.
“We have always stressed that we need to find a solution that delivers efficient journey times for all routes and work is continuing to establish the best way to do that.”