Transport Scotland’s consultation on the A9 dualling has now closed but there needs to be a wider discussion on strategic transport to and from the Highlands along the A9 corridor in particular.
Yes, the A9 itself needs safety improvements (and not just between Perth and Inverness), but the whole of the northern and eastern Highlands is far too dependent on this road.
The transport minister, Keith Brown, mentioned the lack of alternative routes in his balanced response to the A9 debate on 21 February. Major road works are currently causing delays at the Kessock Bridge. Where are the Rest and be Thankful-style “resilience roads” to cover blockages on the A9?
The Highlands will be hardest hit if there is a major oil crisis due to political turmoil in the Middle East. Alternatives to road freight transport can be provided by rail and by sea.
One effect of dualling the A9 may well be to kill off the Tesco train to Inverness and bulk cement and oil traffic.
The congested single track railway lines from Perth and Aberdeen to Inverness are due to get major “priority” upgrades to increase capacity and we must ensure that the ports in Inverness, Invergordon, Moray and Caithness can handle increased freight traffic too.
Transporting freight by rail and sea uses much less fuel per tonne, thus saving scarce fuel for onward distribution. This cannot wholly replace road transport but does help reduce oil consumption.
The Scottish Government’s carbon reduction targets for transport have not been achieved. One minister is no longer responsible for both Transport and Climate Change and the second Low Carbon Scotland report lacks the clarity of purpose of the first.
Leaving transport to the “market” and “competition” does not make the best use of scarce resources. We need to produce and consume more locally and we all need to travel less which is why improved broadband is so important. Policy needs to reflect these issues.