Highland Council hits back at ‘naïve’ call for end to road building
Highland Council and HITRANS have hit out at a “naïve” call for an end to roadbuilding in Scotland that they say was made “without understanding the challenges of everyone who would be affected”.
Earlier this week eight walking and cycling organisations issued a statement as part of a joint response to the National Transport Strategy urging the Scottish Government end road building and prioritise greener alternatives such as public transport, walking and cycling.
The statement from Cycling Scotland, Cycling UK, Forth Environment Link, Living Streets, Paths for All, Ramblers Scotland, Sustrans Scotland and Transform Scotland called on the Scottish Government to end funding for new trunk roads.
However, Highland Council suggested the statement was made from a central belt point of view.
Highland Council convener Bill Lobban said: “Try telling the many people and businesses in the Highlands who have been waiting for years to see investment in the A9 and A96 roads that all planned improvement works will stop.
“These organisations are based in the central belt, where the road networks are more extensive and there are more public transport options than commuters and businesses in the Highlands have.
“I feel it is very naïve to issue such a statement without understanding the challenges and particular circumstances of everyone who would be affected if all road improvements stopped.
“We have campaigned for many years to see the A9 between Perth and Inverness dualled as it improves our link to the rest of Scotland, helps the economy and will improve safety.
“With work on this project and the work on the A96 route from Inverness to Aberdeen underway, we want to see it completed and will continue working with Transport Scotland and our partners HITRANS to ensure the Highlands has the investment in vital infrastructure it needs.”
Chair of HITRANS Councillor Allan Henderson said: “In making their comments these organisations are aiming to divert funds from these desperately needed infrastructure projects.
“As a council we are supportive of encouraging all modes of transport including walking, cycling and public transport.
“We are currently working in partnership with Sustrans on several exciting projects including Inverness City Active Travel Network, Wick Street Design, Dingwall 20mph schemes to name a few.
“We also work closely with Paths for All’s Smarter Choices Smarter Places fund to deliver behaviour change work and to support our partners Velocity to encourage active travel in our region.
“However, we also need to ensure that the main arterial routes leading to the Highlands, and our own network of roads keeps our communities connected and allows Highland based businesses to flourish.”
Speaking at a recent Holyrood fringe event at SNP conference, rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said he would make “no apology” about continuing with the dualling of the A9 because it was a matter of safety.