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The A9 road should be dualled all the way to Caithness, says Thurso Community Council

By Gordon Calder

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The A9 should be dualled all the way to Caithness – and if that does not happen major improvements should be undertaken to improve the road north of Inverness.

That is the message which has been delivered to the Scottish Parliament by Thurso Community Council after it was asked by the Participation and Communities Team (PACT) at Holyrood for its views on the project.The Citizen Participation & Public Petitions Committee is considering a petition about dualling the A9 amid calls for action to be taken on safety grounds.

The community council was asked to select which of four options best represents its opinion – dualling the A9 should be done as quickly as possible, even at the cost of disruption while the work is completed: there needs to be a compromise between dualling the A9 quickly, and minimising disruption: minimising disruption is the most important factor, even if this means it takes longer to complete the dualling of the road or none of these.

Secretary, Iain Gregory, stated: "A major infrastructure project of this size will always entail disruption, but we need to consider the benefits of completion in as short a timescale as possible – above all, lives are at risk every single day that the A9 remains in its present inadequate and dangerous form. When we built the UK motorway system, we accepted that there would be major inconvenience, and we got it done as quickly as possible.

"Thurso Community Council represents people in the far north, and we believe that not only should the A9 be dualled as far as Inverness, we consider that, ideally, it would be dualled all the way to Scrabster, and to Wick on the A99. We appreciate this may not happen, but we do expect that major improvements must be made all the way to these destinations, and that these works should be carried out very swiftly. The A9 does NOT end at Inverness, and the people of the far north are entitled to far better than the present 1950's infrastructure."

The A9 road at the Causewaymire. Picture: DGS
The A9 road at the Causewaymire. Picture: DGS

He added: "When the current A9 was constructed, in the 1970's, it replaced a road which was barely adequate in the 1950's. It should of course have been dualled there and then, and there is, I think, universal agreement amongst the general public, that dualling is vital. It makes no sense to spend £3 billion on this upgrade, only for the improvements to end at Inverness or possibly Nigg roundabout. The agreed project MUST include essential and major works to the wholly inadequate and dangerous road north to Sutherland and Caithness".

Mr Gregory also highlighted some of the other arguments made by fellow community councillors on the benefits of reduced journey times, improved operational effectiveness, less driver frustration and therefore less accidents, safer roads for users and the local communities.

One member said: "There is also another issue surrounding access to maternity services and the requirement to head south for any medical emergency. We have future investment with the West Orkney Wind Farm and the Satellite Station - the infrastructure and deteriorating roadways will not cope with the increase in demand, not even mentioning the NC 500".

Another pointed out that the A9 terminates in Caithness and said: "Tourists, business visitors and residents alike should be able to access an up to date road system that supports safe and time aware journeys, i.e. a dualled A9 trunk road.

"Without this basic infrastructure, Scotland is relegating the north to the transport scrap heap. Thurso Community Council ... demands that our home be made equal with the rest of the country. The whole of the A9 should be a dual carriageway but ... that isn't likely to happen. The road needs to be looked at seriously and brought up to standard".

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