Moves to speed up the long-awaited dualling of the A9 Inverness-Perth road in the Highlands have had a mixed reaction in the north.
The Scottish Government has confirmed the project to upgrade the Kincraig-Dalraddy stretch south of Aviemore will start six months early.
As reported yesterday in the Press and Journal, it will be the first section of the trunk route to be dualled in the Highlands and has been brought forward because of anticipated savings from the Queensferry Crossing.
The £50million contract has now been issued for tender and the five mile stretch could be completed by 2017.
Transport minister Keith Brown and finance secretary John Swinney made the official announcement near Kincraig earlier yesterday.
And Mr Swinney said: “The ground investigation work alone under way here at Kincraig is supporting over 30 jobs, with more to come when full construction begins next year.
“Communities and businesses here and along the length of the route can look forward to feeling all of the benefits of this investment as we press ahead in delivering the full dualling programme.”
But some prominent campaigners for the dualling played down the announcement.
Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Danny Alexander said yesterday that Highlanders would treat the SNP’s claims that the project was ahead of schedule “with the derision they deserve”.
He said: “Regular users of the A9 have had to endure seven wasted years of a SNP government that has focussed on central belt priorities while turning a deaf ear to Highland concerns. Not only that, but now Highlanders must endure average speed cameras on the road which will increase driver frustration.
“So far, not a single metre of the A9 has been dualled on their watch. Highlanders will judge the SNP on their actions, not the occasional warm words.”
And Mike Burns, of the A9 Average Speed Cameras are not the Answer campaign, said: “The campaign always welcomes any real work on A9 dualling which involves people finally seeing spades in the ground.
“But given this project was essentially cancelled in a previous form by the SNP in 2007, this will have been eight years late in coming, for which the SNP Government and Transport Scotland must hang their heads in shame.
“If they were to provide the same gutso and practical work into dualling as they did on removing speed limit signs and speed cameras on the A9, then maybe some families would not still be sitting with the hurt of lost ones on the gaping wound of Scotland that is the A9.”