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Campaign Launched to Win Upgrade of Scotland's Most Dangerous Road

10th March 2008

A major campaign will be launched today (Monday) to win improvements on one of the most scenic but dangerous stretches of trunk road in the United Kingdom. The A82 Tarbet - Fort William - Inverness road is famous for passing the landmark destinations of Loch Lomond, Loch Rannoch, Glencoe, Ben Nevis and Loch Ness. But it is also infamous for its disturbing number of fatalities, injuries and incidents.

The longer-term aim of the campaign is to achieve an upgrade of sections over the entire stretch from Tarbet to Inverness. However, the immediate target of the A82 Partnership is to win funds to improve the four most dangerous stretches of the road between Tarbet and Fort William that have already been identified by Transport Scotland at a total cost of 90M.

Transport Scotland is carrying out a Strategic Review of the entire Scottish transport programme at present. The aim of the campaign is to secure the commitment of the Scottish Government to regard the upgrade of the A82 between Fort William and Tarbet as a top priority and make sure that all the work included in the 90M appears in the final programme.

At the launch at Inverarnan, 7 miles south of Crianlarich, Campaign Head, Alasdair Ferguson, Managing Director of Ferguson Transport (Spean Bridge) Ltd, whose vehicles use the road on a daily basis, said that the lifeline link to the West Highlands and Islands is the most dangerous road in Scotland.

He added: "The A82 is narrow and tortuous and in a number of areas is in such a state that I have grave concerns for the safety of our drivers and others who use the road daily. Our vehicles experience more damage and wear and tear on this road than any other road in the country. The road is a disgrace. It is a nightmare for foreign drivers, who do not expect to have to travel on a trunk road that is so narrow that two vehicles cannot pass in some places or, if they try to keep inside the centre line, they run the high risk of going on their sides due to the soft verges or hitting rocks on Loch Lomond side."

Mr Ferguson's company was the Highlands and Islands Business of the Year in 2006 and employs over 100 staff, who travel 3,000,000 miles a year. Mr Ferguson said a meeting with Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson was essential to highlight the strength of support for the campaign.

He said he was delighted with the support received from across political parties, businesses, local councillors in Argyll and Bute and Highland, the chambers of commerce and community councils.

Chief Inspector John Chisholm, Northern Constabulary, revealed that between January 2005 and the end of 2007 there were 22 fatalities and over 450 injuries on the A 82 between Tarbet and Inverness.

As well as accidents, there are a large number of other incidents that the Police deal with on a daily basis on the A82. In Lochaber alone, from 2005 to 2007, there were 3,000 recorded incidents on the A82. These range from routine enforcement work to responding to calls about weather conditions, road hazards, complaints about driver behaviour. Anything can result in a road closure, for example the recovery of damaged vehicles following a collision, trees blown across the carriageway or relatively minor accidents which do not cause injury but result in serious damage to vehicles or property.

Chief Inspector Chisholm said: "The loss of life and serious injury on this road is of the utmost concern to the police service and indeed the community through which the route passes. The grief suffered by relatives of those involved in collisions, together with the inevitable frustration that follows road closures is a regular feature endured by road users on the A82. Police enforcement activity is one element of a raft of measures, including engineered solutions, which can improve safety on this road."

Mrs Eileen Webster, a carer and former nurse from North Ballachulish, is one of those drivers seriously injured on the A82. She was travelling to work in Fort William at 7.45 am on 12 March last year when, between Corran Ferry and the Loch Linnhe picnic area, her car skidded, crossed the carriageway, flipped on an embankment and ended on its roof. No other car was involved.

Mrs Webster was able to crawl out of the car with the support of passers by before being taken to hospital in Fort William. There, a scan revealed neck damage and she was airlifted to Glasgow Southern General Hospital where a fracture and two partially dislocated vertebrae were identified. Eileen spent 10 days in hospital and still suffers stiffness in her neck but is now back at work.

She said: "I feel that something has to be done to highlight the dangers of the A 82 road and I am 100% behind the aims of the campaign. I travelled to and from Glasgow during my recovery and know every bump and twist on this awful road. I am an experienced motorist who knows the road well enough to drive at a sensible speed and yet it happened to me. I see many motorists driving too fast and others who are clearly frustrated at being held up on the twisting and tortuous road with so few overtaking opportunities. Visitors just don't know the dangers on this stretch of road."

Councillor Duncan Macintyre, Argyll and Bute Council and Chair of HITRANS, the Highlands and Islands Strategic Transport Partnership, said: "HITRANS has identified the importance of the A82 to the economy of the area and the constraints that the atrocious condition of major sections imposes on the ability of this region to grow. We look to the government to deliver fair, equal and long overdue improvements, that will help them achieve their national growth targets."

Councillor Hamish Fraser, Skye, Chairman of the Highlands & Islands Region of the Federation of Small Businesses said: "The poor condition of the A82 is a major constraint on economic development in Skye and the West Highlands. With no air links to the area and a very limited rail network, all forms of transportation are restricted by a very poor road link with the central belt. An upgrade of the A82 would substantially improve our ability to exchange goods and services with the rest of the UK and beyond. An area that relies so heavily on tourism, and attracts so many visitors to Scotland, needs and deserves something a whole lot better than a second class road link."

Councillor John Laing, Chairman of The Highland Council's Transport Environmental and Community Services, said: "I am delighted to support the action to highlight the need for improvements to the A82, which is as significant for the West Coast as the A9 is for the East Coast."

Highland Councillor Brian Murphy, Chairman of the A82 Partnership, said: "This dangerous lifeline road has been starved of investment for far too long. We need the people of the West Highlands and Islands to take action now, to sign the e-petition for the Parliament, display the car stickers, write letters to local and national newspapers, and especially to write to our MSPs and lobby them at their surgeries. Please stay in touch with the Campaign through www.A82.org."

The projects that have been identified in Transport Scotland's Route Action Plan are: -

1 - Loch Lomondside: This is considered the worst stretch of road due to its tortuous alignment, restricted width, flooding, queues at Pulpit Rock traffic signals, narrow bridges, and very restricted opportunities for overtaking. The estimated cost of providing 14.8 km of new carriageway, including a tunnel at Pulpit Rock is 54.0M.

2 - Crianlarich Village By-pass: Construct 1 km of 7.3 km wide carriageway to by-pass the village. Estimated cost 4.4M.

3 - Achalader Brae - Loch Tulla: By-pass listed bridge with new bridge and 3 km of new road. Climbing lane. Estimated cost 14.3M.

4 - Fort William - Corran: Widen carriageway to 7.3 m for sections totalling 4km of a 14km stretch of road between where there is poor alignment, restricted visibility, limited overtaking, narrow width. Preparation for future work. Estimated cost is 12.20M.

A further 5.1M is allocated for safety and lay-by improvements, minor widening and picnic areas along the entire length.

The total cost of the above is 90M of which a budget for only 16M has been identified so far in the period up to 2012. The aim of the Campaign is to make sure that the entire 90M is included in the Scottish road construction programme that will cover the period from now to 2022.

An Economic Appraisal was carried out in September 2005 by TRIBAL HCH for HITRANS. This concluded that the total additional income and employment which could be created in Scotland as the result of significant upgrading of the A82, derives from the benefit to existing businesses in the study area of the West Highlands and Islands. The central case forecast shows additional income to the study area over 2010-2039 of 313 million (discounted). Hence investment is forecast to yield substantial economic benefits to the Scottish economy and the Scottish Government's target GDP growth rate.

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