Transport Minister under siege over Moray A96 route options

Opposition against 'Option N' is growing ahead of consultations next week.
Opposition against ‘Option N’ is growing ahead of consultations next week.

SCOTLAND’S TRANSPORT MINISTER can be of little doubt over the strength of feeling against an option to drive the dualled A96 through the heart of Moray’s countryside.

The reaction to ‘Option N’ in the proposed plans for the new route have caused major ructions in Moray – from businesses in the towns it would affect to the rural communities who would find the road driving through their landscape.

While several alternative routes are being considered, it is the idea that a straight-line route from Nairn to Fochabers be taken by the new road that has caused the greatest concern – and prompted both Richard Lochhead MSP and Douglas Ross MSP to meet with Humza Yousaf this week.

They urged the minister to seriously consider local concerns that bypassing two of Moray’s main towns would result in a potential catastrophe for local businesses, while creating a route that would take the road close to areas of historic importance such as Pluscarden Abbey was also a poor choice.

Following Richard Lochhead’s meeting with the minister earlier this week, Douglas Ross MSP took his turn at Holyrood.

Mr Ross said: “The dualling of the A96 is long overdue and is a project I fully support but we have to ensure that the detailed work at this stage is correct for the area to fully benefit from this vital project.

“One of the concerns I raised with the minister was the unsuitability of option N and I have urged him to rule-out this option as soon as possible. We should concentrate on the routes that would be good for Moray and commuters alike and take away the blight from those living near the line on the map which is option N.

“Another issue raised with me was the lack of contact local individuals and communities feel they have had with Transport Scotland and others on this major project. I was therefore pleased to hear that a group to liaise with local community councils will be set-up shortly to ensure all the information is made readily available to local communities.

“Finally we discussed the various options for crossing the River Spey which will be complex and requires careful consideration. The Transport Minister has asked for a separate briefing on this aspect of the route and has promised to keep me updated on this and other developments in the project.

“While it was useful to have a meeting with the Minister and his officials I will continue to raise concerns which are highlighted to me. It will be a long process until the road is constructed but it is important that local people feel their views have been heard and considered as the project moves forward.”

The discussions came ahead of ‘meet the team’ meetings in Moray next week, at which members of the public can have their say on the alternative routes.

The meetings are being held on:

Tuesday October 4, 12 noon – 7pm
Bellie Church Hall, The Square, Fochabers, IV32 7DG

Wednesday October 5, 12 noon – 7pm
Ramnee Hotel, Victoria Road, Forres, IV36 3BN

Thursday October 6, 12 noon – 7pm
The Gallery, Elgin Library, Cooper Park, Elgin, IV30 1HS

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