Feumar gluasad nas luaithe air leasachadh an A9 – Murray MacLeòid

Tha e cianail smaoineachadh air na daoine a chiall am beatha am bliadhna air an A9, am prìomh rathad a tha a’ ceangal ceann a tuath na h-Alba ris na bailtean mòra nas fhaide deas.

Air A9 thathas a’ gluasad gun sguir bho rathad dà-fhìllteach gu rathad àbhaisteach
Air A9 thathas a’ gluasad gun sguir bho rathad dà-fhìllteach gu rathad àbhaisteach

[English-language version below]

Bhon Fhaoilleach, tha 15 duine air bàsachadh, agus chan eil a’ bhliadhna seachad fhathast. Sin an àireamh as miosa ann am 20 bliadhna.

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Le sin, tha barrachd air aon duine air am beatha a chall air an rathad seo a h-uile mios.

Nuair a chaidh camaran a thoirt a-staigh bho chionn grunn bhliadhnachan – na h-iolairean mòra a tha gad do choimhead air feadh na slighe – bha còrr gun robh cùisean gu bhith na b’ fheàrr; innealan faicsinneach a’ màidhean air daoine gabhail air an socair.

Agus airson greiseag bha a h-uile coltas gun robh. Thàinig lùghdachadh air an àireamh de thubaistean agus bha draibhearan ag ràdh gun robh an t-slighe eadar Peairt is Inbhir Nis nas càileir', ged as dòcha a bha sin ri linn ‘s gun deach cead a thoirt dha làraidhean a dhol na bu luaithe.

Ach, tha na h-àireamhan am bliadhna a’ ciallachadh gum bu chòir sùil eile a thoirt air cùisean. Nam biodh iad dìreach air a dhol an àirde bho dhà no thrì bhliadhnachan air ais, bhiodh e furasta gu leòr a ràdh gur ann ri linn barrachd trafaig às dèidh a’ ghlasaidh.

Ach, leis gu bheil iad nas miosa na bha iad fiù ‘s mus tàinig na camaran, tha sin air èigheach as ùire adhbhrachadh airson rudeigin a bharrachd a dhèanamh.

Far a bheil an A9 eadar-dhealaichte bho phrìomh rathaidean eile, ‘s ann mar a thathas a’ gluasad gun sguir bho rathad dà-fhìllteach gu rathad àbhaisteach, a' cruthachadh ghrunn àitichean far a bheil an dearg chunnart. Anns an dorchadas, nuair nach fhaic thu na tha timcheall ort agus na soidhnichean uaireanan duilich a leughadh, saoilidh tu g’ eil thu a' cur do bheatha ann an cunnart gun sguir.

Tha Riaghaltas na h-Alba air a ràdh gu bheil iad airson an t-slighe gu lèir eadar Peairt is Inbhir Nis, 112 mìle, a dhèanamh dà-fhìllte. Ach, chan eil an t-adhartas ach cianail slaodach agus tha 77 mìle aca fhathast ri dhol.

Rinn ministear a’ chomhdhail Jenny Gilruth soilleir gun robh iad fhathast gu mòr air cùlaibh a’ phròiseict, ach cha b’ urrainn dhith ceann-uidhe a chur air gun tig na cùmhnantan gu lèir aontachadh.

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Chan e sin a bha na daoine a tha a’ fuireach anns na bailtean ri taobh an A9 airson cluinntinn, no iadsan a tha an urra ris an rathad airson beò-shlaint.

Thuirt am ministear nach eil a bhith a’ toirt cruth ùr air an rathad ach pàirt dhen fhreagairt, ach tha e duilich faicinn dè eile aig am biodh an uimhir a’ bhuaidh a thaobh gearradh sìos air na tha de thubaistean a’ tachairt.

Gus an tig fear de phrìomh rathaidean na h-Alba a leasachadh chun na h-ìre a tha cuimseach ri cho trang is a tha e, agus cho cudromach ‘s a tha e, tha an luchd-poileataigs ann an cunnart iad fhèin fhàgail fosgailte ri casaidean nach eil iad a’ dèanamh gu leòr ann an cùis far a bheil beatha dhaoine ann an cunnart.

‘S dòcha g’ eil e nas fheàrr am mìneachadh fhàgail aig Laura Hansler, a tha a’ fuireach ann an Ceann na Creige, faisg air an Aghaidh Mhòir.

“Nuair a chluinneas sinn sìrean, tha sinn a’ gabhail an eagail, smaoineachadh cò an ath dhuine,” thuirt i. “An e cuideigin a th’ ann a bhuinneas dhuinn; an e nàbaidh a bhios ann?”

English-language version:

This year’s death toll on the A9 – the main thoroughfare linking the north of Scotland to the Central Belt, providing a vital economic and social lifeline – makes for depressing reading.

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Since January, the road has claimed the lives of 15 people, the highest level in 20 years. That’s more than one fatal accident every month. The A9, one of Scoland’s busiest roads, is once again earning its reputation as a veritable deathtrap.

The introduction a number of years ago of average speed cameras – the yellow vultures watching your every move, perched high at regular intervals – were designed to curb excessive driving behaviour, a visible deterrent for those unable to control their impatience. And it seemed for a while they worked. The number of fatal accidents dropped and drivers reported the journey between Perth and Inverness a far more pleasant and trouble-free event, though that had probably as much to do with raising the speed limit for lorries as opposed to targeting the more irresponsible.

But the statistics for this year demand a reassessment. Had they simply recorded a rise on two or three years ago, it would have been easily explained away by increased activity following lockdown. However the fact that fatalities are now, not just back to what they were before the introduction of average speed cameras, but worse, has understandably prompted fresh demand for action.

Where the A9 stands apart from other main roads in Scotland is the constant switching from dual to single carriageway, creating numerous dangerous flashpoints. In the dark, when the lie of the land is not visible and signs can be difficult to read, it can feel like the motoring equivalent of playing Russian Roulette.

The Scottish Government has pledged to dual the entire 112-mile section between Inverness and Perth at a cost of £33 billion, but progress has been slow – there are still 77 miles of single track to complete. Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said they were "absolutely committed" to the project, but she could not put a date on when it would be complete until after a procurement process.

That is not what the communities along the A9, and those who depend on it for their livelihoods, want to hear. For them, dualling is crucial and the quicker it happens the better.

Ms Gilruth insisted that a redesign was only part of the solution, but it’s hard to see anything else that will have quite the same impact on reducing fatalities on this notorious stretch of road. General messaging over more careful driving certainly has a role to play, as might more visible policing and even enhanced penalties.

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But it’s clear that until one Scotland’s main transport arteries is upgraded to the degree that reflects its importance and the level of traffic it carries, the politicians will leave themselves open to the charge of prevarication over an issue of life and death.

It’s perhaps best summed up by campaigner Laura Hansler, who lives in Kincraig, near Aviemore. "The moment we hear a siren out on the A9 we collectively hold our breaths, because we are wondering who is coming next?" she said. "Is it going to be one of mine; is it going to be a neighbour?"

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