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Further studies on A9 junctions, including two at Tain

By Alison Cameron

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Rhoda Grant.
Rhoda Grant.

A HIGHLANDS and Islands MSP has been told that Transport Scotland is to commission a study on the safety and operation of A9 junctions on the stretch of road around Munlochy, including the junction where a teenager died last year.

Assessments of the two Tain junctions at Asda and Lidl are also ongoing.

Rhoda Grant wrote to Transport and Infrastructure Secretary, Michael Matheson, after a constituent contacted her, following the tragic accident at Munlochy on December 20, with suggestions of how the junction could be improved.

The constituent, who lives nearby, suggested the junction at the A9 with the B9161 had been an issue of local concern for some time, with drivers forced to cross the dual carriageway to exit and join.

Mrs Grant agreed that the increase in traffic in the Highlands, both from tourism and continued development, have placed increased pressure on roads and on those using this junction, and the constituent suggested that the construction of an underpass, similar to that at the North Kessock junction would improve safety at the location and asked for Mrs Grant to push for this.

Mrs Grant asked Mr Matheson to look at remodelling the junction at the B9161 to Munlochy with immediate effect.

She is pleased that Transport Scotland is to take action.

"They say they recognise the concerns this tragedy has raised and will continue to review the safety of the location," said Mrs Grant.

"I'm grateful that they have moved on this and they are to commission a study in the near future to consider junctions on this stretch of road.

"This will include consultation with Highland Council and other stakeholders to understand how development in the surrounding area and the impact of an increase in traffic may have on the junctions.

"While the study is welcome, any recommendations coming out of it will take time to implement and temporary safety improvement measures should be installed at the area in the meantime. I will press the Cabinet Secretary again to introduce temporary measures at the location as a matter of urgency to prevent any other family losing a loved one in this way."

The transport agency said a review of the personal injury accident data, for the most recent annual periods for which data is currently available, has highlighted two accidents recorded in the vicinity of the Munlochy junction but it did not include the tragic accident of 20 December.

In her letter to the Cabinet Secretary, Mrs Grant highlighted a series of junctions on the A9 north of Inverness which she believed were inadequate and asked if a wider scoping exercise of all the junctions on the A9 north of Inverness could take place to identify where safety measures may be implemented.

She was already in touch with Transport Scotland about improvements to the Tain Asda and Lidl junctions, but she also asked about the junctions at Evanton, Alness Point and Invergordon.

Mrs Grant was told that Evanton, Alness Point and Invergordon had not been identified for further investigation but the agency would continue to monitor the locations.

Transport Scotland has advised the MSP that they assess the safety performance of the trunk road network on an annual basis by screening all locations where three or more personal injury accidents have occurred in a three year period.

Alongside accident clusters they advise, they also look at accident patterns and rates in the form of Route Accident Reduction Plans.

Mrs Grant concluded: "I have also been pressing for safety measures to be implemented at the Tain junctions at Aldi and Lidl for some time and I've been told that the design work necessary to progress a speed limit reduction scheme at these junctions has now commenced and the installation of the necessary signage will be programmed. Consultants are being appointed to carry out an assessment of longer-term options for these junctions and communities will be engaged in the study in due course.

"We need to see the same thing happen at Munlochy until a longer-term option is found and I will press the Government again to make this happen."

Related article: Police name teenager killed in Black Isle road accident

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