Safety concerns for North Coast 500 after increase in accidents

The North Coast 500 route is boosting the Highlands economy. Picture: Contributed
The North Coast 500 route is boosting the Highlands economy. Picture: Contributed
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The Scottish Government is looking a number of options to address road safety on the North Coast 500 route amid concerns over a rise in the number of accidents, MSPs have been told.

The route covers some of the most spectacular scenery in the Highlands as it snakes around the northern coastline, and has become a huge hit with tourists in recent years after being marketed as “Scotland’s Route 66”.

But there are now concerns over a rise in the number of accidents, with locals complaining of damaged cars in poorly maintained parts of the road and stand-offs between motorists in single-track stretches.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf told MSPs yesterday that the success of the road has provided a major boost to Scotland’s economy.

Road safety had improved in the “trunk road” areas, where maintainance is overseen by ministers, but a recent report found there were nine deaths and 23 serious accidents on the nine main roads on the 516-mile route in 2016, against six deaths and 16 serious accidents recorded in 2014.

Mr Yousaf told MSPs that a transport sub-group to address concerns has been set up by the North Coast 500 working group which comprises Highland Council, Police Scotland, Transport Scotland and BEAR Scotland.

He said: “Options that are being considered include passing places on single-track roads, road-edge strengthening, improved tourist route signing and general road safety and driver behaviour education.

“Those discussions are at an early stage and I would welcome contributions.”

The concerns were raised by Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain who said the road had been a “tremendous boost” to the Highlands.

“Many people who live near it believe that accidents are caused by a combination of frustration and inexperienced driving on single-track roads,” he added.

He called on the Scottish Government to “take a lead” in increasing signs on the roads, given the financial problems faced by Highland Council.

The minister agreed to look at any proposals, adding: “Some of our recent interventions focus on signage, and on single-track roads and passing places. If a proposal comes from Highland Council, we will look at it.”