MSP presses transport minister for improved timescale

TRANSPORT Minister, Humza Yousaf, has been asked if the upgrade of Berriedale Braes will happen sooner than the three years previously mooted by his predecessor.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has written to Mr Yousaf following reports that work has now started on the design for the project after the publication of the findings of a Local Public Inquiry.
A year ago, former Transport Minister Derek Mackay said the inquiry process was estimated to take 12 to 18 months, thereafter reconstruction of the upgrade would take about a year but could only commence if the scheme was approved under the relevant statutory procedures and a timetable could then be set in line with available budgets.
“The Local Public Inquiry Reporter, Frances McChlery, stressed in his conclusion that there was a ‘demonstrable safety and operational problem’ at this section of the A9,” said Mrs Grant.
“And, he noted a Chief Inspector’s description of the road as being ‘the most hazardous section of the road from a policing point of view’. The Reporter also agreed the scheme would improve journey times, improve the reliability of the A9 as a strategic route and increase resilience.
“This all adds to the argument that this upgrading should happen sooner rather than later and I’ve now asked the Minister for a timeline for the project which hopefully will including a construction date and a completion date.
“It’s fine for others to herald the start of the process but, as we politicians well know, the end could be further off than at first thought!”
According to information given to the inquiry, the current budget for the project is 220,000 with the Scottish Government, though Transport Scotland, allocating 100,000, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority a further 100,000, Highland Council 10,000 and HiTRANS local transport partnership 10,000.
But 12 months ago former Transport Minister Mr Mackay said that the money for the project would not be included in the Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2016/2017.
“In the scheme of things, the Government’s contribution is very small and the cash should be made available very quickly,” added Mrs Grant, who continues to campaign for an early upgrade to the stretch of road.
The MSP had previously argued that Transport Scotland should come to an early agreement with the one objector to the scheme to avoid a delay and expense through a Local Public Inquiry.
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