A MAJOR STEP forward in plans to dual the A96 through Moray has been taken with just four bidders in the running for a £50million contract.
The 29-mile section of the route from Auldearn to Fochabers has “stepped up a gear” according to the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Keith Brown, who revealed one of four firms were in the running for the lucrative contract.
He said: “This major contract marks a further milestone towards the dualling of the A96 with all the investment and improvements that will bring to the Highlands and north-east of Scotland.
“When this contract is awarded later this spring, design work for the western section will step up a gear with route option assessment work getting under way.
“This contract will also provide the successful bidders with steady work for years to come and many more opportunities for small and medium enterprises through subcontracted work, so it will be a significant boost for the local and national economy.”
Debate has already opened in Moray over the route the road will take through Moray, with campaigners determined that it should have as little impact as possible on the environment in particular around historic sites such as Pluscarden Abbey.
The Chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership, John Cowe, said: “Everyone is eager to see what the preferred route will be and we are all keen that the work gets under way as soon as possible.
“We would like to see the Elgin part of it done first and have the project expand from there. The main idea is to get goods in and out of the area – Moray is Scotland’s larder and anything that can help get goods to customers quicker is beneficial.”
A campaign group has been formed in Forres seeking to ensure that Transport Scotland chooses a route that does not cripple Moray’s income by bypassing Forres and Elgin.
The four companies now being considered for the £50million contract are AECOM Limited, Amey Arup Joint Venture, CH2M Fairhurst Joint Venture and Mott MacDonald Grontmij Joint Venture.