Our Chief Executive on A96 dualling Consultation is skewed to deliver outcome for SNP and Greens

Stewart Nicol, our chief executive , has written to ministers and transport chiefs to say he is “extremely concerned” about the way the study was framed.

The future of the £3billion route upgrade between Inverness and Aberdeen has been in doubt since the SNP and Greens signed a power-sharing deal last year.

The Press and Journal revealed earlier this month that a shortage of cash for capital schemes could even lead to the cancellation of the promised dualling of the key section between Inverness and Nairn, including the Nairn bypass.

After completing the consultation survey, Mr Nicol wrote to Transport Scotland, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson, Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes last month.

He said: “I am extremely concerned by the lack of reference to either the economic benefits that will arise from this project, or the needs of the businesses that are based in, or use, the A96 corridor.

“This ‘consultation exercise’ gives no adequate opportunity for me to emphasise once again some fundamental concerns I have around the transport infrastructure of our region.

Desired responses

“It is hard to conclude anything other than the ‘consultation’ is designed to give desired responses, rather than address underlying fundamental issues.”

Only the Inverness to Nairn section of the A96 dualling was supposed to be safeguarded by ministers in the wake of the SNP-Green coalition agreement, as well as bypasses for Nairn, Keith, Elgin and Inverurie.

The future of the rest of the project is subject to a review which will report back by the end of this year.

A consultation survey was held from May 12 to June 10.

Because of his concerns, Mr Nicol offered a “supplementary submission” on behalf of Inverness Chamber of Commerce.

He said the region’s transport needs would “only start to be adequately addressed” when the Scottish Government delivers on its commitments to dual the A96, as well as wider infrastructure improvements.

“Surely it is not unreasonable for all of us to aspire to have Scotland’s seven cities connected by appropriate road and rail infrastructure?” he asked.

Committed to dualling

“As such, Inverness Chamber of Commerce remains committed to calling for the dualling of the full route of the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman told the P&J: “The digital survey used as part of the recent consultation exercise gave individuals and organisations an opportunity to fully share their views, express concerns and provide thoughts on problems and opportunities across the full extent of the A96 corridor.

“However, where detailed comments or suggestions were submitted during the consultation period by other means, such as those provided on behalf of the Inverness Chamber of Commerce by letter, these are being taken into consideration as part of the ongoing review process.”

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