The dualling of the notorious A9 trunk road has taken a major step forward after the award of the first construction contract.
Work on the five-mile section between Kincraig and Dalraddy in the Highlands – the first phase of the £3billion scheme – could now start within weeks.
A joint venture between Wills Bros Civil Engineering and John Paul Construction will build the road for £35million – £15million less than the Scottish Government’s estimate for the project.
An average speed camera currently in place on the section will be removed during the roadworks and replaced by four average speed cameras.
However the speed limit through the works has not yet been decided.
Infrastructure Secretary, Keith Brown said: “The Scottish Government’s ambitious programme for the A9 between Perth to Inverness is now well underway with dualling set to start on this first section shortly and designs now at various stages along the route.
“The ground investigations due to start next month between Glen Garry and Dalraddy will also help inform the ongoing design work for the central section of the A9.
“We have been able to again make considerable savings on one of our infrastructure projects, following significant contract awards for the M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project and the AWPR/Balmedie-Tipperty last year, due to our robust procurement process which ensures that all the efficiencies that can be put in place have been implemented.
“The improved road will provide overtaking opportunities in both directions, cutting the number of vehicle convoys and reducing driver frustration. It will also support businesses, communities and tourism throughout Scotland by improving access to and from the Highlands.”
The Scottish Government intends to dual the length of the A9 between Perth and Inverness at a cost of £3billion.
Wills Bros Civil Engineering and John Paul Construction is a joint venture of two building and civil engineering companies, both based in Ireland and operating throughout the UK and Ireland.
John Paul Construction recently successfully completed the A9 Crubenmore Dual Carriageway Northern Extension for Transport Scotland at a cost of £10.4m.
In 2010, Wills Bros Civil Engineering undertook the A855 Portree to Staffin road widening contract on the Isle of Skye for The Highland Council at a cost of £1.5m.
Ground investigations are also due to start soon on the central section between Glen Garry and Dalraddy, with the £1.1million contract for the work being awarded to Raeburn Drilling & Geotechnical Ltd.