CASH from a multibillion-pound Brussels fund could be used to dual the north-east’s busiest road.
MEP Ian Duncan has joined the campaign to have the Peterhead to Ellon stretch of the A90 upgraded and dubbed the region Scotland’s “forgotten corner”.
The Conservative politician has held talks with senior figures in the fishing and oil and gas industries and is now urging EC chiefs to dip into the £21.5billion TEN-T fund earmarked for completing Europe’s transport network.
There have been repeated calls over the years for action to improve the route to Peterhead, which is Europe’s biggest white fish port.
The town is also home to international engineering and logistics firms Score and Asco, whose heavy goods vehicles travel the route daily.
Last night, Mr Duncan said: “In the UK, the TEN-T corridor stops at Edinburgh.
“But one of the most important economic areas not just of the UK, but of Europe, is the north-east. It’s the gateway to our oil fields and the fishing industry.
“Money seems to get lost when you cross the Tay, whether it’s dualling the A9, which should have been a priority 20 years ago, or dualling the A90, which should have been done at the beginning of the oil boom.
“I’ll be approaching the transport commissioner to see how we can prioritise this area as a key corridor in the EU. We need to make sure the north-east isn’t a forgotten corner of Europe.”
The MEP did admit it would be hard to secure funding for the project as it was not initially budgeted for.
Mr Duncan has already held discussions with Peterhead Port Authority chief executive, John Wallace, who is a vocal supporter of the campaign to upgrade the single carriageway road.
Mr Wallace said: “Clearly dualling has to be something that would be a benefit to the area.
“We are constrained by traffic delays, particularly getting fish south. An hour is critical for our processors. If a load misses a ferry then a catch will arrive a day late on the continent.
“This is about the quality of Scottish seafood.”
A recent study conducted by Biggar Economics revealed that Peterhead harbour supported 9,400 jobs and brought £800million into the Scottish economy annually.
The cost of dualling the 14-mile stretch of the A90 between Ellon and Peterhead has been estimated at £140million.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said last night: “The Scottish Government is already delivering the dualled upgrade of the A90 between Balmedie and Tipperty, along with the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, bringing an additional £6billion to the north east economy, generating around 900 construction jobs, improving safety and cutting congestion for road users and local communities.
“We recognise that this is an important route for businesses along the north east coast, particularly the Energetica Corridor.”
Energetica – a 25-year scheme run in partnership with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils – is aiming to attract energy businesses to the stretch of coast between Aberdeen and Peterhead.
Its programme director, Derek McCrindle, said: “Providing good connectivity is essential to encouraging greater investment into the Energetica corridor and the dualling of the A90 trunk road between Ellon and Peterhead is an important part of that.
“We would welcome the news that funding from Europe was available to support the dualling proposal.”