The A9 between Perth and Inverness is gradually being converted to full dual carriageway. Over the next several years the work will be carried out in sections. For hillwalkers the road is not just a highway to the far north, but the start point for many popular mountains. The MCofS are concerned that the upgrade might significantly impede access to these hills, and they are urging people to make their needs known while there's still time to influence the planned road layout.
Work is currently at design stage, and the MCofS has been consulted on the plans and asked to provide details of infrastructure that would be required to ensure the safety of walkers and climbers once the dual carriageway is in operation.
Andrea Partridge, Access Officer with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said:
'The time to argue for crossings and other access issues is now, when things are still in the planning stage – not once the work has been done.'
'Any hill or route that you access from the A9 is likely to be affected, whether it’s by having to drive miles past your start point to get turned to come back along the right side of the dual carriageway, or trying to get across the line of the road on foot.'
'Preserving and improving access should be an integral part of this project, not an afterthought, so it is vital that hill walkers and climbers make their voices heard now through the consultation and show how important an issue this is.'
The new dual carriageway will have separated road crossings at the existing junctions, with bridges or underpasses, and there will be no opportunities for vehicles to cross the central reservation between these junctions. As a result those who park in the laybys on the A9 to access the hills will have to drive to the next junction before crossing the road to head home again.
In addition, say the MCofS, it has also been suggested that pedestrians will be discouraged from crossing the road, and there will be no gaps in the central reservation to make this possible.
They think that underpasses should be provided at regular intervals to allow people to cross the road. This could be done in tandem with bridges and culverts that will be provided for water courses, they say, but there may be other locations where access is required too.
According to the MCofS it is essential that comments are made at this stage, so that infrastructure can be put in during the construction phase rather than retrospectively added once the road is built. They are inviting members, indeed all interested parties, to comment on the proposals, and in particular to identify where parking and crossing points will be required.
The maps which show the A9 route corridor can be viewed here (input username ex-partria and password sPointA9 and then click to the left of each map to tick the box and then click “download a copy”).
Any comments should be sent direct to the engineers by email before 1st May 2015.