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The Inverness Courier will hold an A9 Crisis Summit in July

By Scott Maclennan

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Two over our front pages since the Scottish Government broke is promise to complete the dualling of the A9 from Inverness-Perth by 2025.
Two over our front pages since the Scottish Government broke is promise to complete the dualling of the A9 from Inverness-Perth by 2025.

More than 100 people have died on the A9 since 2009 – 13 of those people died in fatal car crashes on the Inverness-Perth stretch last year alone. It’s time to act. Now.

As part of The Inverness Courier’s ongoing campaign, we are holding an A9 Crisis Summit on July 18 at Eden Court, bringing together local interest groups, campaigners, business leaders and MSPs. We have invited representatives from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, including the new transport minister Fiona Hyslop. After a catalogue of fatal delays, people in the Highlands need to know that this is a priority – will she give us that assurance and attend?

Sarah Fyfe, head of content and audience at Highland News & Media, publisher of The Inverness Courier, said: “Our Dual The A9 campaign isn’t work – it’s personal.

"I am a born and bred Highlander and I, like my colleagues, have no choice but to travel on the A9 regularly. We drive on that road with our children, report on tragic deaths, hear sirens as emergency services attend crashes and, sadly, some know victims’ loved ones. The A9 Crisis Summit is an opportunity to bring together people who can affect change, demanding a dualling update while discussing shorter-term safety ideas.”

The dualling of the Inverness-Perth section was originally vowed to be complete by 2025, but declared “unachievable” four months ago. No new plan has emerged since.

We aren’t alone in our urgency to see this broken Scottish Government promise prioritised. Colin Marr from Inverness Chamber of Commerce, MSPs Fergus Ewing and Kate Forbes, and Laura Hansler of the A9 Dual Action Group were all quick to confirm attendance, agreeing that we must work together to make Highland voices heard.

Mr Marr said: "The lack of progress on dualling the A9 makes it clear that the Scottish Government have never given this project the necessary focus or priority.

"Edinburgh has benefited from the new Forth crossing and trams, while Inverness and Highlands are stuck with outdated road and rail connections. Compared to the central belt, those of us who live north of Perth feel ignored and forgotten about. Highland businesses can’t reach their full potential with this lack of infrastructure, but more importantly we are still seeing families and communities devastated by the all too regular loss of life.

"The Scottish Government now need to step up and publish a detailed timetable for completion of this long overdue, essential work. That needs to be followed by regular updates, so we all know whether or not they are delivering on their promises this time. In 2011, we were promised completion by 2025 and we took the government at their word. This time round we will be watching every step and holding the government to account."

The event will include speakers, a panel discussion and questions from the audience. As well as demanding a new dualling timeline, we will discuss ideas for other increased safety measures and put them to the new transport minister.

We have also reached out to friends and families of victims. Anyone who has been in an accident on the A9, or has lost a loved one, is welcome to contact us. You can be involved in any way you feel comfortable – whether attending and remaining unnamed, providing a statement or question, or speaking at the summit.

In all, just two sections of the A9 project have been dualled, equating to around one mile a year since the programme’s inception. Waiting until autumn for an update is not good enough. Lives are at stake.

We will have more information about our A9 Crisis Summit, and how you can get involved, in Tuesday’s Inverness Courier.

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