A9 Is Putting Brake On Development Say Firms
11th July 2006
OVER 60 per cent of businesses surveyed in the Highlands and Central Belt want the A9 road to be fully dualled between Inverness and Perth, according to a report commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
The survey was carried out as part of a broad ranging research programme by HIE to determine the future transport investment priorities for the region - identifying the options that will best support long-term economic development.
Study authors Reference Economic Consultants probed the perceptions of 74 public sector bodies, businesses organisations and companies located in the Highlands, the North-East and the Central Belt with regard to the A9 and A96.
The report concludes: "It should be of concern to HIE and other stakeholders that significant proportions of business organisations and companies view the road links to one of Scotland's five cities as unsatisfactory."
Results showed that within the region, key concerns about the A9 centred around perceptions that the road was unsafe due to the mix of single and dual-carriageway sections; and that a lack of overtaking opportunities and the build-up of vehicle 'platoons' made driving stressful and hard work.
Outside the Highlands, the majority of businesses had a negative perception of the A9, and almost every one considered the journey from the Central Belt to Aberdeen - because it is largely dual carriageway - to be much better than the trip up the A9 to Inverness. Nearly three-quarters of those asked said they felt the road quality was constraining development in the A9 catchment area.
The strongest criticism came from companies which do business in the Highlands and Islands but don't have a base in the region.
Some of these businesses stated: "Unless the arterial route (A9) is upgraded then development will suffer"; and "It is harming the growth of the Highlands". One manufacturer commented that in the summer months delays occurred on the road causing time slots for onward air freighting to be missed, and that "this happens too much."
The A96 was also viewed negatively by businesses and sectoral organisations outside the Highlands. Problems were identified along its entire length with particular criticisms including the presence of agricultural traffic, the passage through rather than around settlements and specific bottlenecks. Upgrading the road was seen as a priority particularly among those based in Moray.
Rail services along both corridors were viewed as being complementary to the roads by respondents, with use of both modes at different times and depending on circumstances. Perceptions of rail services were generally negative, with limited frequencies and long journey times highlighted as the main weaknesses. However, investment in the rail network was not seen as an alternative to upgrading the roads, with only 13% of business respondents in favour of investment in the Inverness-Perth rail line instead of the A9.
Tony Jarvis, Transport Policy Manager at HIE said, "This report confirms many conversations we have had with the business community which point consistently to the need to upgrade the A9 and A96 if the area is to develop effectively and sustainably over the long-term.
"Indeed we firmly believe that upgrading these key routes, as well as their complementary rail services, represent significant projects at a Scottish level - they are a vital part of the nation's transport infrastructure."
Charlie King, Chairman of HITRANS, the Regional Transport Partnership charged with formulating transport strategy for the Highlands, said: "We are still working towards a final draft strategy document but it would be surprising if the key arterial routes to the Highlands do not emerge as a priority. The A9 and A96 serve an enormous catchment from the Inner Moray Firth through to the islands and improvement to such an important route has to be of substantial benefit to the social and economic fortunes of the
Currently only 45km of the 174km of the A9 from Perth to Inverness is dual-carriageway. On the A96, only 17km out of 157km from Aberdeen to Inverness is dualled, with almost all of this between Aberdeen and Inverurie.
See the suvey of Business Perceptions of therA9 and A96 -