COUNCILLORS HAVE REJECTED recommendations that improvements to a vital arterial route linking Buckie and Keith be halted.
A report put to the economic development and infrastructure services committee on Tuesday sought to call a halt to the completion of improvements to the B9016.
Officials said that economic justification for completing upgrades to the route were “primarily journey-time related”, adding that “with only marginal time savings and very low traffic volumes, the benefit to cost ratio for schemes along the route will be well short of the minimum level 1”.
However, a passionate plea from the SNP councillor for Fochabers/Lhanbryde, Margo Howe, who while not on the committee asked leave to address members, helped to ensure that the £5million upgrades would at least be considered.
Councillor Howe said: “I was surprised at what was being written in the paper – it is called a route action plan and improvement scheme and yet the only action plan mentioned is for it to be delayed, put further back or even forgotten about.
“Never mind the past accident history of this road, I feel that it is necessary for us to remember the Council’s scheme of administration and the functions of it to look after the safety, improvement and the maintenance. The study in 2007 recommended improvement to the whole route to provide an upgraded safe route between the A96 and the A98, so what has changed?
“Let’s not forget that this is a link road between the Aberdeen to Inverness trunk road and the coast, cutting 5.5km off the journey between Buckie and Keith. I can’t emphasise enough the significance of this route to the economic wellbeing of Moray, it is the main route to the development that officers are working hard to bring to Buckie Harbour.
“The economic justification is to cut journey time, I would argue that lives are more important and that a safer route would also affect journey times.
“How many fatalities or near misses does it take to go over the level 1 of the benefit cost ratio? I would ask you to reconsider the recommendation and look at all aspects of the action plan starting with the costs and finishing with a reasonable economic feasibility study.”
Council Leader Stewart Cree, who represents the Keith ward, earlier expressed his desire that rather than the road plans being scrapped the alternative recommendation, that it be considered as part of the capital review process, be taken, saying: “I think that is entirely proper. The choices will be made against the merits of the proposal and the capital likely to be available at that time.”
A motion from Buckie councillor Gordon McDonald, that the road upgrade be considered in the capital review process, was unanimously agreed by the committee.