Ministers must be more honest about A9 dualling completion date - Alastair Dalton

For at least the last five years, I have highlighted how increasingly unrealistic the SNP’s pledge to finish dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness by 2025 has become.

Despite little more than three years remaining to widen the remaining 70 miles, Transport Scotland’s project web page still states “Completion 2025” and minsters from Nicola Sturgeon down have repeatedly refused to admit it simply won’t happen by then.

The SNP made its dualling pledge after coming to power 15 years ago and announced the 2025 date in 2011 – a hugely ambitious undertaking which, at a still only estimated £3 billion, has been described as the biggest project in Scottish history.

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However, since then, only two sections totalling around just 11 miles have been added. There is a huge way to go.

The six-mile Luncarty-Birnam section opened last year is one of only two dual carriageway stretches opened since the SNP pledged to complete dualling between Perth and Inverness. Picture: Transport Scotland
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The lack of progress towards the 2025 goal has been conveniently masked by Covid pandemic restrictions slowing work, followed by something of a hiatus since officials launched a consultation with the construction industry more than 18 months ago over how the rest of the scheme could be built and funded.

Up to now, it could be argued that 2025 was just a date of the SNP’s own making, but this year’s shocking death toll on the road, revealed by The Scotsman on Friday, must give a new urgency to the project.

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Two further deaths in a crash on Thursday have increased to 11 the number of people killed between Perth and Inverness so far this year, compared to just one in each of the last three years, and it’s the highest since 2010.

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Significantly, all this year’s fatalities appear to have been on single carriageway sections.

While average speed cameras have been deployed on those stretches for eight years, and it is of course drivers and others on the road who cause deaths, not the road itself, dualling would at least eliminate head-on collisions, make overtaking safer and improve junction safety.

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Ministers may remain “firmly committed” to completing dualling, but they owe it to everyone who uses the road, including the many hugely disrupted by lengthy post-crash closures, to be more honest about when it will be completed.

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