Doubts arise over Scotland's major dualling progammes

05/02/2021
Chris Ames

The Scottish Government has removed consideration of both the A9 project and the A96 dualling scheme from its Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), despite Transport Scotland officials telling MSPs that the review would consider the future of both schemes.

It also appears to be backing away from a longstanding pledge to complete the dualling of the A9 from Perth to Inverness by 2025, and said it is 'taking stock' of how best to deliver the project in light of the new economic environment.

A spokesman confirmed: 'We appointed commercial advisors last year and, as part of ongoing stakeholder engagement, market consultation will be undertaken this year to inform identification of the most efficient delivery model and programme.'

The devolved government’s commitment to the two huge projects – each is costed at £3bn – has raised questions about its attempts to move away from roadbuilding and towards more sustainable transport modes.

However, the SNP administration has cited the schemes as proof of its commitment to improve regions of the country outside the central belt between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The Transport Scotland website states that the Scottish Government has committed to completing the upgrade of the remaining 80 miles of the A9 between Perth and Inverness by 2025, but states: ‘This is an ambitious deadline for a project of this size and complexity.’

One of 11 sections has been completed (pictured) and another is due to be completed shortly. However, the remaining nine sections are ‘in preparation’ with no sign of construction work starting this year.

Asked by Highways whether the Scottish Government was still committed to completing the A9 dualling between Perth and Inverness by 2025, a Transport Scotland spokesman would say only that it ‘continues to make significant progress’ on the scheme.

The spokesperson added: ‘The economic climate has changed considerably and unexpectedly. For a programme of the scale and significance of A9 Dualling, it is simply good, responsible governance to take stock and ensure public funds will be spent efficiently, effectively and balancing the considerable benefits of the programme against financial risk and undue cumulative impacts to the travelling public and local communities.

‘In such an uncertain economic climate it is essential we discuss our current programme and understand market conditions within the contracting industry to ensure that together we can deliver A9 Dualling as efficiently and effectively as possible.’

The 2007 SNP manifesto included a pledge to complete the dualling of the A9 by 2025. The Scottish Government’s Infrastructure Investment Plan 2011 stated: ‘by 2025, we will have dualled the A9 between Perth and Inverness.’

Just over a year ago, in late 2019, Transport Scotland's director of roads, Hugh Gillies appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. Asked if there was a review of ‘whether we are going to continue with the dualling of the A9 and A96’, he replied: ‘What I will say is that all of this is up for debate as part of the Strategy Transport Projects Review.’

Mr Gillies subsequently wrote to the committee to 'clarify' his words. He wrote: 'My comments in relation to [the STPR and the National Transport Strategy] were intended to be distinct from commitments already made by the Scottish Government in relation to the A9 and the A96.'

He added: 'As the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP, advised the Committee on 11 September, the Scottish Government remains committed to dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness and theA96 between Inverness and Aberdeen as part of its current programme of infrastructure improvements.'

In December Mr Matheson, responded to an allegation that it ‘cares more about investing in central belt infrastructure than it does about investing in roads in rural and remote Scotland’ by stating: ‘We are taking forward one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Scotland through the dualling of the A9 up to Inverness and that, alongside that, we will be dualling the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen.’

The first phase of STPR was published this week, with the second phase. ‘focusing on the delivery of medium to longer-term schemes’ due in the Autumn.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson told Highways that the A9 and A96 projects are ‘not included in the STPR’.

The spokesperson said: ‘STPR is Scottish Government’s review of potential future interventions to improve Scotland’s transport networks. This is different to the Scottish Government’s committed infrastructure programme, which continues to include both A9 and A96 dualling programmes which we are continuing to progress.’

However, with little progress on either scheme, the reality may be that both have been effectively shelved.

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Inside

  • Smart motorways' BCR problem
  • New lighting decision support tool

 

 

View the latest issue


Highways jobs

Highway Engineer - Reactive Maintenance

£35,354 - £40,506 incl. LWA, plus £963 car allowance
We make a difference to the environment we live in. Come and help us manage our highway infrastructure. Bracknell, Berkshire
Recruiter: Bracknell Forest Borough Council

Maintenance Manager

£43,857 to £47,782
We are currently looking for a strong candidate to take up the role of Maintenance Manager at Area 6 Boroughbridge. Boroughbridge, York
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Engineer Sustainable Development

£32,234 - £36,922 per annum
To help support this key area of work, we are looking for an enthusiastic, experienced and forward thinking Engineer to... Stafford, Staffordshire
Recruiter: Staffordshire County Council

Senior Engineer (Streetscene)

£40,632 - £45,594
We are looking for 2 Senior Engineers to join our team to help deliver effective Capital and Revenue investments programmes to... Hackney, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Hackney London Borough Council

Neighbourhood Highway Officers - West and North

£28,672 per annum
We are seeking a recruit two Neighbourhood Highway Officers (NHO), to be based in Okehampton and Tiverton, Devon. Devon
Recruiter: Devon County Council

Warehouse Assistant/Driver

£20,903 - £24,491 per annum
The successful applicants will work as part of a team in a busy work environment to carry out warehouse and... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Planning Policy Manager

£61.470 - £64.704
Be part of Greenwich's vision to successfully accommodate a high level of sustainable growth, which... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Refuse Driver (Rolling Advert - applications checked weekly)

£30.032 - £31.610
It is an exciting time in Street Services at the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Be part of a team who are... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Traffic Engineer

£32,301 - £37,491
We are currently looking for an experienced Traffic Engineer to join our Design & Engineering team.  London (Greater)
Recruiter: Hackney London Borough Council

Apprentice Civil Engineering Technician

£12,656.10
This opportunity is primarily based out of our West Offices in the heart of York. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Traffic Enforcement Manager

£40,869 - £43,860
As part of a major service transformation, Haringey is seeking to recruit to a new number of new positions. Haringey, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Haringey London Borough Council

Refuse Driver

£30032 - £31610 per annum + (amount shown is salary plus allowances)
Refuse Driver (LGV Chargehand Driver)(starting total pay of £30,032 - this is made up of the base grade salary plus contractual overtime and allowance England, London, Woolwich
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Corporate Director (Environment, Communities & Leisure)

Up to £83,424 (pay award pending)
As one of our two Corporate Directors reporting to the Chief Executive to form our Senior Leadership Team your... Gedling, Nottingham
Recruiter: Gedling Borough Council

Senior Infrastructure Engineer

£45.834 - £56.141
This is a great role in a vibrant and growing team; we’re looking for people with significant experience in... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Parking Service Business Manager

£43,860 - £46,839
As part of a major service transformation, Haringey is seeking to recruit to a new number of new positions. Haringey, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Haringey London Borough Council

Roads Technician

£18,812 - £23,791
This is a great opportunity for you to join Lincolnshire County Council's Technical Services Partnership as... Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Roads Engineer

£25,991 - £35,745
We are looking for people to join one of our three Roads teams, made up of around 30 friendly and enthusiastic professionals. Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Senior Project Manager

Up to £50,823 per annum
The role of this post is to oversee the project management, development and implementation of the County Council’s Major Transport Projects.. Leicestershire
Recruiter: Leicestershire County Council

Programme and Change Delivery Manager (Spatial Planning and Urban Design)

£43,833 - £53,115 Depending on skills and experience
Are you a change delivery manager with expertise in England’s local government spatial planning and urban design sector? Wandsworth, London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Bridges Manager – Highways and Transportation

£49,320 to £57,376
You will be responsible for... Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video