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A96: The 10 worst sections that show why dualling is vital between Aberdeen and Inverness

Buckle up and join us on a drive from Aberdeen to Inverness, as we examine 12 key stretches of the notorious A96 which demonstrate why the dualling project can't come soon enough.

An HGV flying past the Tesco junction at Huntly. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson
An HGV flying past the Tesco junction at Huntly. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

Let’s be honest, the A96 is probably more suited to horses and carts in a lot of sections than modern traffic.

It’s the main road between the major cities of Aberdeen and Inverness, and carries huge volumes of cars, vans and lorries daily.

But despite this pressure, it’s still a horrendous patchwork of single carriageways, overtaking lanes reminiscent of Wacky Races, and the occasional rare bit of A96 dualling.

A single carriageway stretch - no A96 dualling - with cars and lorries on it
The A96 near Inverurie. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson.

Long-promised plans of A96 dualling have been repeatedly kicked down the road.

And there’s been doubts cast over the project going ahead as planned due to environmental concerns.

The fact remains however that the longer any action is delayed, the longer people will have to deal with this dangerous road.

Join us on a journey along the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness, as we shine the spotlight on the 12 worst bits and show why A96 dualling can’t come soon enough.

1. The Oyne Fork

As we begin our journey from Aberdeen to Inverness, we start off on one of the few actual bits of existing A96 dualling.

It’s smooth sailing all the way through Blackburn, past Kintore, and up to Inverurie.

But as we pass Inverurie and get further west, the four lanes cut down to two, and now we’re definitely starting to experience what the vast majority of the A96 feels like.

Our first example of the worst bits of the A96 is the notorious Oyne Fork, site of many crashes and road closures over the years.

The notorious Oyne Fork, and the typical site of a tractor trundling down the A96. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

The junction connects the A96 with the road out to Oyne, Insch and beyond.

It’s a very tight turn-off, and is located right in the middle of a long bend which traffic tends to swing round in quite a fast manner.

Extreme caution is recommended for navigating the tricky fork, especially when watching out for vehicles pulling out of the Insch road onto the A96.

2. The Colpy Junction

Soon after passing the Oyne Fork, we come across another of the A96’s dodgiest sections — the Colpy Junction.

A view of the A96 from the road out to Oldmeldrum, with a couple of HGVs. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

It links the A96 east to the rural A920 road out to Oldmeldrum.

Last month, road markings and signs were announced for review in the area after 11 collisions involving injuries were recorded between 2020 and 2022.

For drivers coming off the Oldmeldrum road, it can be really difficult turning onto the A96 here, as traffic tends to speed up to take advantage of this rare straight.

Couple all this with the amount of farming traffic and HGVs you usually get on the A96, and it’s a recipe for trouble.

3. The overtaking lanes between Morgan McVeighs and Huntly

After Colpy, the next piece of the A96 to tackle is the drive from the Morgan McVeighs restaurant to Huntly.

The overtaking lanes all along the very bendy stretch can be good for getting past tractors or other slower vehicles, but they can also be dangerous.

The end of one of the overtaking lanes between Morgan McVeighs and Huntly. Image: Google Streetview

With pent-up road rage from being stuck behind lengthy tailbacks of traffic, some drivers can overtake a bit too fast in these lanes.

And because they’re so short, it can sometimes result in dangerous races to clear the traffic before the overtaking lanes run out.

To add to this, in the winter months the area can get really bad for snow.

A view from a traffic camera on the A96 at Foudland on January 15, 2023. Image: Traffic Scotland.

4. The Tesco junction ‘death trap’ just past Huntly

The junction linking the A96 to the A920 Dufftown road just west of Huntly is surely one of the worst on the entire A96.

A lorry going along the A96 past the junction at Tesco in Huntly. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

The run-up to turning left onto the Dufftown road is incredibly short, and it’s right across the A96 from the busy turn-off towards Huntly’s Tesco.

It’s worst of all for any traffic turning into the A96 from either side, who have to contend with poor views of 60mph traffic coming from both north and south.

Keep your eyes on the road whenever you come past this junction at Huntly. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

Last year, it was identified in a road safety review as in need of “further investigation and mitigation”, and one MSP dubbed it a “death trap”. 

5. Everything about the A96 through Keith

We’ve now gone from Aberdeen, past Inverurie and Huntly, but now we come to the first major community the A96 traffic actually thunders straight through the middle of.

The A96 goes straight through the town of Keith. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

Why is it that we have a major inter-city road, full of lorries carrying massive loads, located just inches away from people’s front doors in Keith?

And how would A96 dualling work here?

A view from one of Keith’s many tiny lanes onto a lorry heading up the A96 through the middle of the community. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

It’s something we’ll see time and time again as we get closer to Inverness, this problem of a major A-road splitting towns and villages in half.

Not only is bringing heavy traffic into such close quarters with people on foot a bad idea, but it also causes frustration for drivers needing to deal with all sorts of traffic lights and queues that are common in the middle of Keith.

In March, a project got underway to improve crossing points on the A96 as it runs through Keith to help make it safer for pedestrians. 

6. Elgin and its endless roundabouts

Traffic was brought to a standstill on the A96 in Elgin.
Traffic making its way through Elgin on the A96. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

I hope you like roundabouts. Because there’s going to be a lot of them.

Some of them big, some of them small. But most of them clogged with people desperate to get somewhere, forced into the only route through the town.

On a two-mile stretch of the A96 between KFC on the east side of Elgin and Dr Gray’s Hospital on the west side, there are eight.

Heavy traffic going through Elgin along the A96. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

There will be left-turn filter lanes, right-turn filter lanes and some will have three options.

If you were looking for consistency, you’ve come to the wrong place. But hey, it’s all part of the fun, right?

Elgin is the largest town – or city, people are still not completely sure – we’ll encounter on the road between Inverness and Aberdeen.

Campaigns for a new bypass have been running since the early 2000s but despite that, we’re still no further forward.

7. The Alves overtaking lane

Picture the scene. You’ve been quietly biding your time on the way from Inverness to Aberdeen.

There’s been a few buses and plenty of lorries as you dream of full A96 dualling.

You’ve been stuck behind them, but you’re getting there. Slowly.

But suddenly, there’s hope. The first overtaking lane on your journey is on the horizon and soon, life will be much better.

The overtaking lane, just to the east of Alves. Image: Google Streetview
The overtaking lane, just to the east of Alves. Image: Google Streetview

The only problem is the crawler lane just after the village of Alves is less than half a mile long.

You’ve hardly got enough time to celebrate getting past someone before the next slow-moving vehicle appears.

And as a result, more often than not it is an absolute zoo.

It’s little wonder that it’s a common place for police to sit at.

8. Brodie

The A96 at Brodie. Image: Google Streetview
The A96 at Brodie. Image: Google Streetview

The hard facts certainly back this one up as an accident blackspot.

There were five accidents in a single week here last summer.

As a result, a speed survey has been carried out by Transport Scotland, with the results currently under review.

Campaigners have been pushing for changes to the layout of the road.

And hopefully, those changes should now happen.

9. Ardersier junctions

The turn-off to Ardersier on the A96. Image: Google Streetview
The turn-off to Ardersier on the A96. Image: Google Streetview

You could quite comfortably lump these two junctions together, given they are both ultimately heading to the same place.

On either side of Inverness Airport, you have roads heading towards the village of Ardersier.

It’s an easy left-hand turn for either on the way there. But if you’re heading back towards Inverness – like many people do every weekday morning – it’s a tricky right-turn across a fast road packed with commuters.

The B9006 version has the added difficulty of it being a staggered crossroads with the junction close to the old Highland Food Stop.

The B9039 doesn’t have anything like that. Instead it’s just a blind bend for people turning right to worry about.

10. Balloch

Busy traffic on the A96 at the Balloch junction. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Why would someone choose a slower route through Culloden to get to Balloch from Inverness city centre?

Why not just stay on the A96? After all, Google Maps says it’s two minutes quicker.

Have a go yourself at 8.30am on a weekday morning and you’ll soon have your answer.

It’s almost like inching out across vehicles rattling past you at 60mph feels unsafe or something.

Yes, I may have lost those extra two minutes. But think of the money I’ve saved on deodorant.