Campaigners pushing for a major upgrade of a north-east junction have been dealt a blow after roads bosses said the “perception” it was dangerous was not backed up by data.
The Toll of Birness, linking the A90 Ellon to Peterhead and A952 Fraserburgh roads, has long had a reputation for being an accident blackspot.
Potential upgrades have been on the table since 2017, but in the meantime flashing signs urging drivers to reduce their speed were installed last year.
It has been suggested the junction will eventually be replaced with a roundabout.
But now a briefing document detailing discussions between Aberdeenshire Council, Bear Scotland and Transport Scotland has cast doubt on the project, due to accident figures.
In the last five years there has been one serious crash, and five people suffering minor injuries in the spot – potentially undermining the case that action must be taken on safety grounds.
The report – compiled by the local authority’s strategy manager Martin Hall and strategic transport officer Robert McGregor – states: “Although there is a public perception of the junction of being dangerous, recorded accident statistics do not justify the level of investment required to carry out significant improvements to the junction, therefore a wider case of strategic need and future enabling require to be made.”
It added that Bear Scotland’s preferred option of a roundabout was not “economically justifiable” based on the statistics.
However, the document does say improvements were likely to “feature as a key project” in a forthcoming Transport Scotland report.
Last night Councillor Gillian Owen, who has been pushing for improvements, said the issue went beyond crash figures.
Mrs Owen, who wants the A90 to be dualled beyond Ellon, said: “The new traffic pressures since the AWPR opened as well as the Balmedie to Tipperty dualling has seen the traffic jam move from Balmedie to Ellon.
“So when travelling to Peterhead after the Ellon roundabout there is a constant stream of traffic and no real opportunity to overtake the number of HGV’s so traffic times are changing.
“The Toll of Birness junction is clearly a bad junction as vehicles at peak times can sit and wait for ages to join the A90.
“The accident statistics do not necessarily tell the full story and anyone watching the junction can give a very different impression in the number of near misses which are the result of frustration.”
Ewan Wallace, the council’s head of transportation, said before any safety improvements at the Toll of Birness could go ahead, future traffic growth and the economic impact would need to be considered alongside historical accident figures.
He added: “As a trunk road, the best way forward for unlocking the necessary capital investment required is the forthcoming strategic transport projects review that is being undertaken Transport Scotland.”
Last night, a Transport Scotland spokesman said they had been in discussions with the council and Bear Scotland about safety improvements at the junction for the last three years.
He said: “We are clear that any potential development led scheme could result in improvements such as a roundabout, however, this would be led by other parties to address the impact of the development and not as a consequence of road safety evidence.
“The longer term consideration of the routes and junctions north of Aberdeen will be in the context of the ongoing strategic transport appraisal, part of the Aberdeen City region deal, and through the second strategic transport projects review.”