Transport officials responsible for drawing upgrade plans for one of the north-east’s busiest roads have travelled its length to inspect progress.
A preferred route has already been announced for the new section of dual carriageway to be built on the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road between Fochabers and Hardmuir, near Nairn.
However, Transport Scotland has revealed that minor “tweaks” could still be made to the proposals before they are finalised, it is understood, at the end of next year.
Yesterday, Moray MSP Richard Lochhead joined officials to study the length of the 28-mile section and raise concerns expressed by locals likely to be affected.
The politician described the project as potentially “transformational” for the region when coupled with the £65 million growth deal, but warned issues must be addressed.
Mr Lochhead said: “Clearly the coming months and years will determine the exact route and design, with decisions still to be made.
“However, as the detail is taken forward it is helpful to join Transport Scotland to highlight some of the issues that have been raised about the proposals so far.
“Some of them are strategic, such as the need to include connections for cycle routes, and importantly some of them are about the impact on particular properties.”
Transport Scotland’s preferred route for the A96 between Hardmuir and Fochabers, which is being designed by Mott MacDonald Sweco, includes bypasses to the north of Forres and south of Elgin and a new bridge over the River Spey, marginally to the south of the existing crossing.
The entire route between Aberdeen and Inverness is expected to be dualled and open by the end of 2030, with potential options drafted to link Huntly and the Granite City.
Initial options for the final stretch between Fochabers and Huntly are expected to be published before the end of this year.
Niamh Callaghan, Transport Scotland’s project manager for the Hardmuir to Fochabers section, said feedback continued to be gathered following the announcement of the preferred route in December.
She said: “We are progressing with the design of the preferred option at the moment, which will take about two years to complete.
“The route options assessment is finished but there could be some tweaks as we go forward.”