Consultants have been appointed to take forward the controversial A96 dual carriageway review and should report back this year.
Jacobs Aecom will assess the climate impact of dualling the road between Aberdeen and Inverness, a policy paused by the SNP-Green coalition at Holyrood.
North-east Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said to start the review more than a decade after first announcing the plans “shows how much the SNP have turned their back on drivers to satisfy their Green coalition partners”.
Transport Scotland has committed to an “enhancements programme” for the A96 that improves connectivity between surrounding towns, tackles congestion and addresses safety and environmental issues.
Consultants are currently gathering “initial baseline information” from previous studies to assist the identification of “transport problems and opportunities”.
The findings will be published by the end of this year and will determine whether the route will be fully dualled.
However, Green north-east MSP Maggie Chapman revealed last year she is confident it will “not be viable” to fully dual the road for environmental reasons.
This was followed by contractors behind part of the A96 dualling project shut their Forres office last Hogmanay, blaming the impact of an SNP-Green deal.
‘A96 needs to be upgraded’
The intention to fully dual the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness was announced in December 2011.
The plan was to connect all of Scotland’s cities by the dual carriageway network.
Mr Kerr said: “The A96 needs to be upgraded to give drivers a safer and improved journey between Aberdeen and Inverness, drive the north-east economy forward and ensure our emergency services can get where they need without delays.
“Instead, this SNP-Green government want to demonise motorists rather than getting on with the upgrade that they have promised but failed to deliver.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The current plan is to fully dual the route between Inverness and Aberdeen.
“However, we have agreed to conduct a transparent, evidence-based review of the programme which is under way and will report by the end of 2022.
“That is sensible good governance for major investment of that level.”
The spokesman added that “appropriate, effective stakeholder and public engagement is being planned and will be carried out at key stages during the process”.