Councillors at a crossroads over transport priorities

ADMINISTRATION AND OPPOSITION Councillors had a difference of opinion over where the Moray Council should be focussing to encourage improvements in its main transport routes through the region.

The debate came during a discussion at the economic development and infrastructure committee where Councillors were asked to consider outcomes from recent public consultations from the Scottish Government on potential options for dualling of the A96.

Speaking against the proposal was Independent Forres Councillor George Alexander, who questioned the routes – suggesting that many in his ward had seen it as a process of widening the current route.

Cllr Alexander felt many would happily see it as the last work on the A96 in their area, and went on to suggest the Council should be pushing for work on the A941 as for many of the businesses in Moray it was the main link to the South but was receiving far less attention than the A96.

Councillor Gordon MacDonald, one of the SNP members for Buckie, took exception to this suggestion.

He pointed out that for the east of the region, and in particular his own ward and Keith, links to the road and beyond were vital for continued growth. He highlighted plans to redevelop Buckie Harbour in particular as heavily reliant on ensuring links were improved as soon as possible.

Elgin SNP Councillor Graham Leadbitter also highlighted the potential improvements that could be made to freight trains by using these plans to improve access for larger vehicles. He cited a recent study that had been conducted with the whisky industry that had looked to remove spirit transportation from the road to rail.

The end result was no change to recommendations which were simply to agree to hold a workshop for further discussions and for these to be fed back to Transport Scotland, who are the Government agency responsible for the roads in question.

Members also raised concerns about the timescales proposed and suggested that Moray could be missing out if pressure was not put upon agencies to ensure that it was seen as a priority in the process.

The workshop is expected to be held before June 22, which is the deadline for submission of responses to Transport Scotland.