A NEW stretch of road aimed at improving safety on one of Scotland's most dangerous routes has been closed just months after opening amid claims that it is hazardous.
The short overtaking lane on the A9 south of Inverness opened in August at a cost of 2.8 million, but it was coned off last week and may now need design improvements before re-opening.
The stretch, which runs for 0.6 miles northbound at Moy, ends just before a junction which allows southbound traffic to turn right across the carriageway.
Local residents say the new section is too short to allow safe overtaking and there have been a number of near misses with southbound cars.
However, Transport Scotland says the stretch meets regulations and believes the difficulties are being caused by the behaviour of drivers who cross an area of "hatching" between the overtaking lane and the southbound turn-off.
Vivian Roden, chairwoman of Strathdearn Community Council which sent an objection to the new stretch in March, 2009, said: "We foresaw a lot of these problems. The overtaking lane is too short and there is a junction at the end of it.
"Drivers are using the stretch like a dual carriageway. Transport Scotland are saying it's drivers to blame and driving is bad, but they knew that before they built this stretch and should have taken that into account."
The community council's objection argued that the new section was not sufficiently long to give buses and lorries enough time to overtake, leading to other cars being held up and drivers becoming frustrated.
Ms Roden said drivers turning off at the Lynebeg junction have recounted "frightening" experiences of coming face to face with oncoming cars using the overtaking lane.
"Drivers hammer on and use the red hatching at the end of the overtaking lane as final overtaking space. The two lanes converge just at the junction and if you have a car sitting facing this it is dangerous. It's just terrible."
Last week, motorist Sandra Flett said she was almost involved in a head-on collision as she waited in a southbound filter lane to turn right to her home at Lynebeg.
A northbound car ran out of space in the overtaking section and stopped just a few feet from her car.
She said: "I saw two cars go into the overtaking lane and I was watching them get nearer. The first car managed to pull into the left before the end of the overtaking lane before it reached me, but the car behind kept coming at me. It stopped about three car lengths away. I was so shocked but relieved there hadn't been a collision."
Local people say the entire road should be dualled to make it safer.The Scottish Government has pledged it will make all the A9 between Perth and Inverness dual carriageway, but has been criticised for not setting a timescale for the work.
Transport Scotland said the Moy junction meets all the required design standards but that some driver behaviour has given it "cause for concern".
A spokesperson said: "Routine network inspections have recently identified the potential need for design improvements to the A9 at Moy.
"Our operating company has put in place temporary traffic management to allow it to conclude investigations while maintaining the safety of road users.
"Any further work, if required, will be carried out as soon as possible and with minimum disruption to drivers."