A9 upgrade call from leading Free Church figure

Abilgail Houston was killed in a car crash on the A9 near Kingussie. Picture: Submitted
Abilgail Houston was killed in a car crash on the A9 near Kingussie. Picture: Submitted
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A Scottish churchman has called on work dualling the notorious A9 to be speeded up after the latest tragedy in the Highlands.

Professor Donald Macleod contrasted the “lavish” treatment given to the M9 Edinburgh to Stirling upgrade and the millions spent on the capital’s trams project with “a lack of investment” in the Highlands.

He believes the A9 should be dualled as a matter of urgency. The former Principal of the Free Church College in Edinburgh said the number of people who had died due to accidents on the A9 was “a shame to the nation”.

His comments follow the deaths of three people in a crash near Newtonmore on 9 July. Abigail Houston, 42, and her seven-year-old daughter, Mia, of Edinburgh, and Mohammad Ali Hayajneh, 62, from Germany, were killed on a single-carriageway stretch of the road.

Prof Macleod said: “I am not a frequent user of the A9, but a dozen or so times a year I have to risk it. And each time I set off I know there is a risk that the road will be ‘closed due to an accident’. It’s happened to me twice in the last six months.

I’m long past the point where such a warning irritates me. You know at once that you have been merely inconvenienced, while someone else has been struck by tragedy.”

A close friend of Prof Macleod, retired head teacher Ronald Grant, died in 2002 in a crash while driving north with his wife Margaret from their flat in Cumbernauld to her family home on the Isle of Lewis.

Prof Macleod added: “The road is notorious, the rate of accidents intolerably high and the cost in human lives a shame to the nation.

“We all have at least moments when we are bad drivers, and our roads must take this into account. Tragically the A9 does not. Psychologically it is all wrong.

“As a brilliantly engineered road, even its long stretches of single carriageway encourage high speeds and once you achieve them you want to maintain them. The road is unforgiving. One miscalculation brings disaster.”

Under current Scottish Government plans, the A9 will not be fully dualled from Perth to Inverness until 2025.
According to official statistics from 2006-10, the latest available, there were 67 deaths and more than 1,200 collisions.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The dualling of the A9 has been talked about for at least a generation, but we are the first administration committed to making the road dual carriageway all the way from Perth to Inverness a reality. Make no mistake, this is one of the top transport infrastructure projects in the country – and we have already spent around £50 million pounds to improve safety on the A9 since 2007.”
He added: “We are now inviting bidders for three major design contracts for the route, and we will look for any opportunity to bring work forward.
“Each section of dualling represents a major project and these require in-depth planning and design to ensure that we keep impacts on communities, businesses and the environment to the absolute minimum.
“In the short term we have asked the A9 Safety Group to look at improved consistency of signing and lining, improved geometry and safety barrier works, variable messaging signs displaying journey times and the possibility of introducing average speed cameras.”