A CONTROVERSIAL trial that would raise the speed of heavy lorries on Scotland’s most notorious road to cut driver frustration and crashes is dividing police officers.
Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government’s transport agency, is considering whether to conduct the trial on the A9 after a proposal to raise speeds from the current 40mph to 50mph was put out to consultation in England.
Coalition ministers approved the increase for heavy goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes to both speed up deliveries and to try reduce crashes caused by motorists caught in tailbacks – known as “platooning” – carrying out risky overtaking manoeuvres.
But although a trial would be supported by the Association of Scottish Police Superintendants (ASPS), which describes itself as the “operational leaders of the Scottish police service”, it is being opposed by the Scottish Police Federation.
The ASPS wants a speed increase to be considered for all single carriageway roads in Scotland, including the key road transport routes from England – the A1 to Edinburgh and the A75 to Stranraer, which links to Northern Ireland ferries.
Association president David O’Connor said: “There is a school of thought that the current restriction on HGVs to 40mph be reviewed and potentially increased to 50mph. An independent review would be the best way forward. There is no doubt the 40mph restriction on the A9 causes huge tailbacks, which can lead to driver frustration, driver error, and ultimately tragic consequences.”
But the head of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, expressed opposition to raising the limit and said even a trial risked increasing casualties.
Chairman Brian Docherty said: “I would have concerns. If lorries travel faster, there would be a more serious impact if there was a collision. It would be hard to justify a trial if it led to more people being killed or injured.
“To make the A9 safer, improvements should be made to the road first, such as building dual carriageways, before increasing the speed limit.”
Transport minister Keith Brown, who would have to approve any trial, has said he is “looking seriously” at the issue, but there was no proof that increasing lorry speeds would solve driver frustration, and it could lead to more crashes.
Mr Brown said research had shown a higher lorry speed limit on the A9 would cause a “slight increase” in deaths and injuries, but “there may be things that could be done to ameliorate that effect”.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists said the A9 would provide an ideal pilot study.
The A9, with its mix of single and dual carriageways, has seen more than 60 deaths since 2007, with six people killed over three months last summer. Long traffic queues regularly build up behind slow vehicles on the long single-carriageway sections.
However, the speed increase is also opposed by safety groups such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.