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Revealed: A96 dualling review bill doubled since October

By Lewis McBlane

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THE Scottish Government has spent nearly £4 million reviewing plans to dual the A96.

Conservative MSP Liam Kerr attacked the SNP-Green coalition for undertaking the review.
Conservative MSP Liam Kerr attacked the SNP-Green coalition for undertaking the review.

New Transport Scotland figures showed that £3.8 million had been spent on the A96 Corridor Review as of June 1.

The project's latest bill, revealed through a Freedom of Information Request from the Scottish Conservatives, is more than double the £1.8 million spend detailed in figures released in October 2022.

A commitment to dual the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness was made in December 2011, with a dualling deadline of 2030.

But the project was paused for a "transparent, evidence-based review" of the dualling, which will also measure climate impact, as part of 2021's SNP-Green coalition deal.

The exact sum spent on the review prior to June was £3,825,341.67, and it gathered 4687 responses.

A questionnaire, released as part of the review, found that 88 per cent of respondents were very dissatisfied or dissatisfied with the availability of safe overtaking opportunities, 79 per cent were not happy with the levels of traffic congestion and 76 per cent were not satisfied with the length of journey times.

Dualling the A96 was also found to be the top priority for locals, as 55 per cent of respondents marked it as a priority.

Last week, transport secretary Mairi McAllan admitted the outcome of the climate review “could have a bearing” on whether the road is fully dualled.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said the Scottish Government is committed to "improving" the A96 and that the amount spent on the A96 Corridor Review was "not unreasonable".

Project outcomes are to be announced "later this summer", the spokesperson added.

Scottish Conservative north-east MSP Liam Kerr said: “This is a jaw-dropping sum of money for a politically driven review aimed at solely pleasing the SNP’s Green coalition partners and their anti-motorist agenda.

“It’s scandalous that almost £4 million of taxpayers’ cash has gone towards this questionnaire and climate compatibility test more than a decade on from when the SNP promised to dual the A96 in full.

“Prevaricating and delaying the dualling through this review has sent completely the wrong message to the families whose loved ones have tragically died or been injured on this dangerous road which desperately needs modernising.

“It’s no surprise the majority of respondents to the questionnaire made it blatantly clear how unsafe they find this road – something which is obvious to everyone except this central belt-based SNP-Green coalition.

“Rather than throwing public money at delaying tactics to appease her Green partners, it’s high time new transport secretary Mairi McAllan concentrates on getting spades into the ground to make life-saving upgrades to the A96.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Transport said: "The current plan is to fully dual the route and as part of this process we are undertaking a transparent, evidence-based review of the programme with the outcomes of this expected to be ready for consultation later this summer," the spokesperson said.

“The public consultation undertaken last year, as part of the A96 Corridor Review, received an unprecedented level of engagement with approximately 4,600 responses, generating more than 11,000 suggestions and potential opportunities for the route all of which have required to be carefully considered as part of the transparent evidence based process.

“The total spent to date on the A96 Corridor Review reflects the extensive appraisal and assessment work that is required to appropriately inform this review and includes consideration of the large number of responses received through the initial consultation exercise and intensive sifting process to determine the initial options for further appraisal.

“More recently the detailed appraisal of the remaining options is ongoing as well as engagement with stakeholders and the development of the further assessment, including a Climate Compatibility Assessment and Statutory Impact Assessments, required to inform the Review.

"This expenditure is not unreasonable given the length and complexity of the corridor subject to the Review and the extent of the work being carried out to complete it.

“The Scottish Government is also committed to dualling the Inverness to Nairn section including the Nairn bypass and we continue to progress the preparation stages of the scheme with a view to completing the statutory process for that as soon as possible.”

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