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A96 campaigners ‘very disappointed’ at lack of meeting with transport secretary

Michael Matheson at the Kintore station site.
Michael Matheson at the Kintore station site.

Aberdeenshire roads activists say they were snubbed by a government minister on a visit to the region- as he ruled out their long term hopes for the A96.

On Thursday, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson re-affirmed that the major north-east road will not be dualled along its existing route.

A shortlist of options have been outlined for the project between Aberdeen and Huntly – a number of them deeply unpopular.

And local politicians and campaign groups such as A96 Action have called for transport bosses to dual the road along the existing route.

They have made repeated attempts to convince the Transport Secretary to meet with them again, having in the past met with Transport Scotland officials.

But while Mr Matheson did find time to visit Aberdeen Harbour and Kintore rail station during his tour this week he did not meet the group or local politicians.

They claimed he had ignored requests for a public meeting or for direct talks, with Conservative Gordon MP Colin Clark accusing Mr Matheson of “arrogantly” dismissing the views of the north-east community.

A spokeswoman from A96 Action yesterday confirmed there had been no contact from the government ahead of the trip.

She said: “A96 Action is very disappointed that the transport secretary was in Aberdeenshire yesterday but made no effort to meet with us or even contact us.”

Mr Clark is a long-term supporter of dualling along the current route.

He said: “It is incredible that the cabinet secretary found time to tour Aberdeen Harbour and Kintore train station but couldn’t spare the time to meet with local campaigners.

“He has arrogantly dismissed their repeated calls to consider dualling the A96 along the existing route.

“Quite simply, he is turning a deaf ear to those concerns and ignoring the needs of the local area.

Fellow Tory, Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett, said he too was “disappointed” with the minister.

He added:  “We have invited Mr Matheson to the north-east for a public meeting to address the concerns of locals directly.

“Instead, he has made a flying visit and immediately headed back down to Edinburgh without meeting any of those involved.

“I am disappointed, and I am sure that local campaigners will be aghast at this blatant snub.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “As part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to dualling the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen, we are progressing the design work for the East of Huntly to Aberdeen stretch of the route.

“Having let local residents see and comment on the initial options last October, we held further engagement events in May for the remaining options being taken forward for further assessment.

“Over 1,300 people took the opportunity to come along and view the material with nearly 700 written responses received.

“Re-use of the existing route between East of Huntly and Aberdeen has been investigated thoroughly as part of the design and assessment process.

“Due to a number of factors, such as the existing trunk road alignment and the impact on existing roadside properties, as well as the high number of junctions and accesses, the assessment concluded that it would be more suitable to develop the new dual carriageway offline from the existing trunk road at Inverurie, with the existing A96 retained for use as part of the local road network.

“However, some of the options under consideration do include sections of online upgrade on other parts of the route where this is feasible.”

The spokesman added: “We have met with the A96 Action Group to discuss their concerns and have received their detailed submission following the recent consultation which we want to take time to study before we respond to them and everyone else who responded to our consultation.

“We will continue to engage with the group as the design for the scheme is progressed.”

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