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Nicola Sturgeon told to push ‘accelerator’ on stalled A9 dualling work

A visualisation of the A9 dualling project between Tomatin and Moy.
A visualisation of the A9 dualling project between Tomatin and Moy.

A former government minister says the £3 billion A9 upgrade must speed up after fresh doubts emerged over cash for the delayed project.

Veteran SNP politician Fergus Ewing raised concerns about progress on the Perth-Inverness route and urged party colleagues to deliver the promise.

The SNP promised to dual 80 miles of the route before coming to power in 2007, but only two of the 11 sections have been completed to date.

Brexit fisheries
Fergus Ewing MSP.

With time rapidly running out to meet the original 2025 completion date, a review of the financing and timetable was due to be completed by summer last year.

But we revealed last week that the blueprint is still being drawn up, almost a year later.

Capital review

Further concerns were raised this week after the Scottish Government said in its capital projects review that it would “not be possible” to immediately fund all its commitments.

SNP figures blamed UK Government capital grant allocations and Holyrood’s limited borrowing powers.

Tory MSPs demanded assurances the A9 dualling programme will not be held back.

Mr Ewing said he believed the government will deliver the dualling scheme, but that it needed to move faster.

“As the local constituency MSP I have campaigned and argued for the dualling of the A9 from Dunblane to Inverness for 22 years,” he said.

“Whilst I am pleased to see the progress made, notably the new section from Luncarty to the Pass of Birnam and that from Dalraddy to Kincraig, there are many sections yet to be done.

“What is not perhaps widely appreciated is that much of the preparatory work regards design and preferred route selection has been done.

A9 dualling works between Luncarty and Birnam in 2020.

“As those involved know, these processes are complex involving engineering solutions in difficult terrain, as well as detailed consultation with communities and individual land owners.

“The key thing is this: The Scottish Government is resolutely committed to completion of the dualling project. That is not in doubt.

“It is the speed at which the commitment can be delivered in practice that must now be accelerated.

‘Maximum pressure’

“I am therefore pleased that the next section from Tomatin to Moy will be progressed, but am exerting maximum pressure on my colleagues in government to accelerate the remaining sections of the dualling.”

Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative transport spokesman, questioned whether the funding shortfall was the reason behind a controversial review of a similar programme to dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen.

“Anyone who uses these roads will agree that vital arterial routes such as the A9 and the A96 are in desperate need of improvement,” he said.

North-east MSP Liam Kerr.

“And they will be deeply concerned by the finance secretary’s admission that there is not enough money for the SNP government to meet its spending commitments on infrastructure.

“The capital spending review did not contain any details about which projects may be affected.

“A cynic could well ask whether this cash shortage is the real reason for the ‘consultation’ on alternative plans for the A96 that was launched last month.”

‘Firmly committed’

Government agency Transport Scotland said they are “firmly committed” to completing the dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness, describing it as a “both a national and a local priority”.

A spokesman added: “Work to determine the most suitable procurement options for the remaining sections of the A9 dualling is ongoing.”

Design work was said to be progressing on the rest of the A9 programme, with the statutory process well under way for seven of the remaining eight schemes.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We have provided the Scottish Government with a record £41 billion per year for the next three years, the highest spending review settlement since devolution.”

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