Caithness councillor calls for new warning signs on A9
A CAITHNESS councillor has highlighted the need for advance warning signs at the Dornoch Bridge to alert motorists to restrictions.
It comes after the A9 at the bridge was closed in both directions for nearly 12 hours last week when a high-sided lorry toppled over onto the crash barriers in high winds.
Councillor Matthew Reiss is concerned about HGV drivers not being aware if the bridge is closed to high-sided vehicles. "Unless you pass the big warning signs at Hempriggs or Georgemas you cannot see any signs," he said.
Coucillor Reiss, who represents Thurso and Northwest Caithness on Highland Council, pointed out that work had begun on putting in bases for warning signs on the north and south sides of the Dornoch Bridge about 18 months ago. He said he had been assured by Transport Scotland that the work would be completed within the next couple of months.
The warning on the north side will be situated around Clashmore, while the one on the south will be at the roundabout before the bridge.
"I am glad that these signs are going up," Councillor Reiss said. "I have also discussed whether the equivalent of snow gates should be used if the bridge is closed overnight rather than having road workers or police officers standing there."
After the lorry incident on Monday last week, police officers had to stand at both ends of the bridge in poor conditions to divert the traffic along a 25-mile diversion through Ardgay and Bonar Bridge. The heavy traffic caused congestion on some of the narrower stretches.
Efforts to recover the southbound lorry were hampered by the strong, gusty winds which battered the crossing. The driver was uninjured.
Meanwhile, Councillor Reiss said he had recently asked Transport Scotland what capital improvements it had planned for the A9 in Caithness and Sutherland over the next 10 years. He had been disappointed to discover it was mainly resurfacing and new signage rather than any actual road changes.
"I honestly think that speaks volumes about how serious the government is about helping the north," he said.
"The A9 really is a lifeline. Most times when I travel north and south to and from Inverness I meet an ambulance with its blue lights on."
Commenting on the millions being spent on dualling the A9 south of Inverness, the councillor said: "I think Caithness and Sutherland should have a share of that money."
Highlighting the narrow bridge at Culgower, he said: "I genuinely think that is a fatality waiting to happen."
Councillor Reiss said he was concerned about sections of the road subsiding around Portgower, and he had asked about getting the road widened in that area by 18 inches on each side. "I don't think that is a big ask," he said.
However, a number of safety improvements are in the pipeline, including work on the junctions at Latheron and Georgemas and the traffic lights beside Tesco in Thurso.