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Think-tank calls for roads upgrade – Press and Journal

Tim Pauling, Press and Journal, 26 June 2009

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An independent think-tank has called for two of the main roads in the north and north-east to be upgraded into dual carriageways.

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It wants to see the A9 Perth-Inverness road and the A96 Aberdeen-Inverness road improved along their full lengths as part of a multibillion-pound national transport plan.

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A report from Reform Scotland states the A96 represents 73 miles of slow-moving traffic between two rapidly-expanding cities.

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“It has a dual carriageway between Aberdeen and Inverurie with nine roundabouts, then single carriageway most of the way to Inverness,” the report says.

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“Both the A96 and A9 should be upgraded to complete dual carriageways along their entire lengths as soon as possible.”

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The proposal is part of a plan for a super road, rail and air hub around Edinburgh Airport, which would have high-speed rail links to a “Grand Central Station” with 20-minute journeys to Glasgow and Stirling, and “radically reduced” times to Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.

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The think-tank said the £25billion plan would provide Scotland with one of the best transport networks in the world.

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Chairman Ben Thomson said the costs, which are roughly equivalent to two London Olympics, did sound “quite scary” but could be divided into more affordable chunks and spread over around two decades.

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He added: “By the time we start construction, the economy should hopefully be more buoyant, so now is a good time to be looking at such a plan.”

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A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We recognise the value of faster rail links to our key economic centres and support the concept of a high-speed rail link that contributes to both the success of the Scottish economy and achieving our ambitious climate change targets.”

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The government’s strategic transport review also sets out plans to dual the A9, and make improvements to the A96 over the next 20 years.

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Tory transport spokesman and north-east MSP Alex Johnstone said the Reform Scotland report was an “expensive wish list”, but improving the road network in the north and north-east must be one of the top priorities.

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“The dualling of the A9 to Inverness and the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness would be the single biggest contribution to the economic development to the north of Scotland,” he added.