A NORTH MSP has hit out at a refusal by the Scottish Government to even consider a pilot scheme that would have seen the speed limit for HGV vehicles increased on the A96.
Labour member of the Highlands, Islands and Moray David Stewart had written to the minister for transport, Humza Yousaf, in May seeking the pilot scheme that would have allowed an increase from 40mph to 50mph for such vehicles on the busy Inverness to Aberdeen route.
Mr Stewart insists the plan – similar to one already in place on the A9 – would aid in reducing frustration and, as a result, reduce the number of accidents on the route.
However, Mr Yousaf has responded that the Scottish Government had no plans to even consider an increase in HGV speed on the A96.
“From previous work I have done with experts at the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) I am advised that if you reduce the difference between the speed of vehicles then the traffic flows smoother,” Mr Stewart said.
He added: “For example, on the A9 if cars travel at 60mph and HGV’s 50mph, on non-dual carriageway sections, the speed differential is 10mph. However, if cars can legally travel at 60mph and HGV’s at only 40mph then the differential is larger and there is more likelihood of congestion and congestion equals frustration which contributes to road collisions.
“In his reply to me, the Minister states ‘one life lost is one too many and as you may be aware inappropriate speed is a major cause of death or injury on roads’. Of course excessive speed is a contributory factor, but I am not talking about excessive speed, I am talking about a balanced approach and increasing the HGV speed on the A96 by 10mph.”
Mr Stewart expressed his disappointment that both Mr Yousaf and his predecessor “keep peddling the line that the Department of Transport’s impact assessment for the rises in HGV speed in England and Wales forecasts an increase in fatal and serious road collisions”.
He continued: “The expert from the Transport Research Laboratory, whom I am dealing with, advised me that in order to fully assess the potential safety risk of increasing the speed limit of HGVs on single carriageway de-restricted roads, large samples of accident data for all injury severities would need to be combined with behavioural studies, traffic flow simulations and injury risk curves.
“However, not all this data is available and other information sources would require extensive research outside the scope of this study.”
Mr Stewart said that the bottom line was the SNP Government had neither desire nor motivation to ease congestion on the A96 until dualling of the route is completed by 2030 – leaving commuters to ‘get on with it’ for the next 14 years.
Mr Stewart said: “The increase in speed of HGV’s on the A9 has contributed to a reduction of road casualties on that route, even although the Government and the A9 Road Safety Group only want to highlight what they call the success of the average speed cameras.
“With that in mind and my knowledge that reducing the differential between the speed of vehicles eases congestion, I plan on continuing my work and that of my team on this issue and I will look for support from businesses, hauliers and other road users.”