As Transport Scotland hold a series of public exhibitions along the route of the A96 seeking public input and providing updated information on the Scottish Government dualling plans, the leader of the Green Party in Moray has put forward his own views on the future of the vital Inverness to Aberdeen route.
The exhibitions have been providing updated information including preliminary engineering assessments and strategic environmental information for the A96.
Also up for discussion has been the route option assessment work on the Inverness to Nairn section of the route, including a Nairn bypass – although at this point no detailed plans have been revealed by a bypass around Elgin.
Moray Greens Convenor James MacKessack-Leitch has previously raised concerns over the dualling of the A9, and questioned why alternatives had appeared to have been ignored – particularly, he says, when estimates suggested the alternative rail route could be dualled and electrified for around a third of the £3billion price tag.
Mr MacKessack-Leitch said: “While bypasses for Nairn and Elgin in particular are welcome, it seems to many people that the case for dualling the entire length of the A96 is rather flimsy.
“I believe that many people would much rather see improvements in other transport infrastructure such as long distance cycle paths, and the railways.
“If the dualling and electrification of the Highland mainline could be achieved for around a third of the price for a dualled A9, it seems very likely that the same circumstances would apply to the Aberdeen-Inverness rail line.
“Unfortunately the current Scottish Government appears to have an unhealthy fixation with road building, and seem unwilling to consider alternatives.”
The Moray Greens’ leader pointed out that such as supermarkets already make use of the existing rail infrastructure, with such as the ‘Lifting the Spirits’ rail freight project carrying supplies to Speyside distilleries through a hub in Elgin to the central belt already trialled.
Mr MacKessack-Leitch concluded: “With meaningful investment in the rail lines we could facilitate far more goods traffic moving from road to rail, improve journey times for travellers, and reduce environmental impacts all at the same time, and at a significantly lower price.”