MINISTERS today underlined their intention to complete one of the biggest projects in Scottish history in 12 years’ time by putting huge design contracts up for grabs as part of the £3 billion upgrade of the A9.
• Scottish Government ministers press on with plans to complete £3 billion A9 upgrade by offering design contracts for 80 miles of dual carriageway
• 80-miles of design work will be split into three main sections as funding for remainder of project to come from “furure budgets”
• Contacts to be worth £40-60 million each
The remaining 80 miles of single carriageway on the road between Perth and Inverness are to be converted to dual carriageway to improve safety, cut journey times and boost the economy. The design work is worth up to a total of £180 million alone.
The SNP pledged the scheme after coming to power six years ago, but so far only a few miles of dual carriageway have been added.
The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said the cost of the scheme would be covered by “future budgets”.
However, it is the equivalent of two Forth Replacement Crossings, and Scotland’s biggest project for a generation has had a significant impact on the Scottish Government’s budget.
The agency is now seeking expressions of interest for three design contracts for the road, worth £40-60m each.
Transport minister Keith Brown said: “This £3 billion complex and challenging programme will be one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history.
“The sheer scale, 80 miles of dual carriageway, makes it good business and value for money to split this design work into three large sections.
“The start of procurement for the detailed design work is a clear indication of our commitment to this project. These contracts will provide steady work for the next 12 years for the three successful bidders – providing much needed certainty and helping to secure jobs.
“In addition, these commissions are likely to offer many opportunities for small and medium enterprises through sub-consultancy work.”
Tenders are also being sought for aerial topographical surveys for both the A9 project and the dualling of the A96 Inverness-Aberdeen road, to be completed by 2030.
Motoring groups called for the project to be accelerated but rail campaigners said it would give the road an unfair advantage.
Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “If anything, it seem less visionary than we might have hoped from the SNP.
“Under this plan, it will still take 12 years to finish when we need upgrading as soon as possible.
“The issuing of long-term contracts seems a logical commitment to the scheme and an opportunity for innovative approaches from the engineering sector.
“A modern ‘fit for purpose’ A9 is now in sight but still a long way off and drivers will be hoping the contracts will include incentives to finish the work early or at least to take any opportunities to accelerate completion of the most straightforward sections.”
David Spaven, Scottish representative of the Rail Freight Group, said: “It is scandalous the Scottish Government is contemplating this vast public expenditure without first considering what would be the best mix of road and rail investment to meet economic, environmental and safety objectives for a key transport corridor.
“The Highland main line railway is still two-thirds single-track, but the A9 was completely rebuilt in the 1980s.
“Our worry is that full dualling of the A9 will lead to freight traffic being lost from rail to road – the opposite of the Government’s own objective for modal shift.”