Trees ‘increase danger’ for overtaking drivers on notorious A9 road
LIVES are being put at risk on Scotland’s most notorious road by trees blocking safe overtaking opportunities on its sweeping curves, motoring groups have warned.
The concerns follow a spate of crashes on the A9 between Perth and Inverness in which six people have been killed in the past three months, bringing the total number of deaths since 2007 to more than 60.
It also comes as ministers privately acknowledge that swifter action is needed to cut the death toll on Scotland’s main north-south road because their £3 billion plan to complete its dualling is not due to be finished until 2025.
Much of the 113-mile route remains single carriageway, but upgrades since the 1970s have included long curves which were designed to provide a clear view of the road ahead to enable overtaking.
However, trees and bushes have grown on the insides of dozens of bends, preventing drivers from seeing oncoming traffic. These include near Calvine, north of the House of Bruar shopping complex; at Ralia, near Newtonmore; and south of Kingussie. There are others west of Pitlochry and north of Killiecrankie.
Experts said tree growth had made overtaking more dangerous and increased motorists’ frustration, and they were more likely to risk potentially fatal manoeuvres to pass slower vehicles.
Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, described the situation as “very worrying”. He demanded urgent action by the Scottish Government’s transport agency, which is responsible for the road.
Greig said: “Safe overtaking opportunities are at a premium, and allowing trees and bushes to grow on sight lines reduces them, with potentially fatal consequences.
“Overtaking crashes are very common on the A9 and nearly always result in fatalities, injuries and long delays while the emergency services investigate and clear up.
“Transport Scotland needs to take a much wider view of what happens in ‘real world’ driving on the A9 and urgently ensure driver vision is maximised at all times.”
Fraser Mackenzie, an environmental consultant, said visibility had deteriorated significantly since he started using the road regularly 15 years ago.
Mackenzie, a director of Atmos Consulting, said: “Gradually, what were previously safe potential overtaking locations, where there were adequate sight lines, have gradually disappeared or diminished. This has happened as the vegetation, which is generally on the inside of long sweeping curves, has grown in height and volume.”
Police forces which patrol the road have become so concerned about the recent spate of crashes they launched a joint operation with speed camera bodies last month in an attempt to cut the number of collisions and casualties.
Incidents have included two lorry drivers being killed when their vehicles collided near Calvine on 1 June, while a week later a van driver and his passenger died near Ralia after it collided with a bus en route to the RockNess music festival.
A spokesman for Northern Constabulary, which polices the A9 north of Drumochter summit, near Dalwhinnie, said: “From a road-safety point of view, no overtaking manoeuvre should be undertaken unless the manoeuvre can be completed safely.”
Mid-Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, who has long campaigned for A9 improvements, said: “Transport Scotland needs to pay attention to this, and if necessary take action to cut back trees and shrubs which have grown up, reducing sight lines on single-carriageway sections.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We believe a co-ordinated approach based on education, engineering and enforcement will help make our journeys by road, including the A9, safer.
“Our operating companies also routinely carry out grass cutting and programmes of tree thinning or tree removal to provide drivers with sufficient forward visibility on the route and to allow safe overtaking opportunities.
“Trunk roads are inspected on a weekly basis by the operating company and any immediate needs are addressed.”
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