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Scottish Government response to Highland road infrastructure ‘disappointing’, says council leader

Roadworks for stabilising rock and installing netting above the A890 between Stromferry and Attadale.   Signage at the end of the road close to Lochcarron warning drivers of delays and restrictions.
Roadworks for stabilising rock and installing netting above the A890 between Stromferry and Attadale. Signage at the end of the road close to Lochcarron warning drivers of delays and restrictions.

Council leader Margaret Davidson has warned that essentials such as primary school repairs are at risk as the council pays millions of pounds keeping a Wester Ross bypass open.

Funding from the Scottish Government to deal with some of Highland’s pressing road infrastructure challenges won’t be coming any time soon, it emerged during Highland Council lobbying in Holyrood last week.

Mrs Davidson says she is ‘disappointed and frustrated’ by the Scottish Government’s responses in her recent meeting with transport secretary Michael Matheson.

She asked Mr Matheson for financial help towards a permanent solution to the dangerous Stromeferry bypass.

She said: “For the next two years we’ve got to invest another two to three million to stabilise the worst of these potential rock falls.

Highland Councillor Margaret Davidson

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“We’ve got to find a solution here for the medium and long term and all I was offered was to talk to the Scottish Futures Trust [an infrastructure delivery company owned by the Scottish Government].

“I feel we’ve got to get way beyond that and need to have the will to find a real solution.

“The money the council needs to spend to stabilise the rock face means there’s some primary school somewhere not getting done because we have to keep patching up that wall, and we do have to, it’s a question of life and limb.”

Transport Scotland says it continues to provide technical advice to the council on the appraisal process, however, “as the A890 is a local road, responsibility for a decision to upgrade or improve the route ultimately lies with the council,” the spokesman said.

On the A82 challenges there was ‘very little give’ Mrs Davidson said.

She said: “The construction traffic on the A82 grows every day.

“Fort William is absolutely grid-locked every summer. I tried to get some sense of urgency about pushing Transport Scotland to get on with the investigations they have to do and was told there would be a strategic transport review in 2020 and it will be part of that, but no promise to prioritise it.

“Fort William is set to become a real economic hub but if the town is grid-locked for months on end then it will be a sheet anchor on what’s happening.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We have a long-standing relationship with the Fort William Congestion Group, which includes representatives from the Highland Council, local businesses and other interested stakeholders, and have worked with them to improve traffic flows through the town on the A82.

“We have also been working with Hitrans, Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise as they develop the evidence base to consider transport problems and opportunities in and around the Fort William area.

“The full detail of the Fort William study will be considered in the context of the ongoing work on the second Strategic Transport Projects Review.”

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