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Minister admits A9 dualling deadline ‘unachievable’ after latest delay

Jenny Gilruth said dualling the rest of the A9 by 2025 is now ‘simply unachievable’ (Alamy/PA)
Jenny Gilruth said dualling the rest of the A9 by 2025 is now ‘simply unachievable’ (Alamy/PA)

Work to dual the remaining parts of the A9 between Perth and Inverness has been delayed, with ministers admitting their deadline of 2025 is “simply unachievable”.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth faced anger and accusations of “betrayal” from MSPs as she announced a setback which has left the project’s completion date uncertain.

Updating the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, she said only one tender ended up being submitted for a six-mile stretch of the road between Tomatin and Moy.

This was significantly higher than the anticipated £115 million cost, she said, meaning the contract would not present value for money for the taxpayer.

Ms Gilruth said the contract will be re-tendered “with pace and urgency” and she will update MSPs again later this year.

Jenny Gilruth
Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said she will update MSPs further later this year (PA)

She said: “I fully appreciate that this will be disappointing news for many people.

“However, I want to be absolutely clear to members in this chamber, and to the communities and businesses served by the A9 between Perth and Inverness, that the Scottish Government’s commitment to dualling the section between Tomatin and Moy remains absolute.

“This has been a difficult decision to make but we believe it to be the only responsible one to take given the circumstances presented.”

The minister said the economic climate had hindered work on the A9, meaning the target date of 2025 is “simply unachievable”.

MSPs, including some in the SNP, pressed Ms Gilruth for more information on when the dualling work will be finished.

Coronavirus – Wed Sep 29, 2021
Murdo Fraser attacked the SNP’s record on the project (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)

Conservative Murdo Fraser said that during the SNP’s time in office, just 10 miles out of 80 between Perth and Inverness have been dualled.

He said: “Actions speak louder than words. Last year 12 people lost their lives in single-carriageway sections of the A9.

“More people will die this year, and the next and the year after as this SNP promise is not delivered.”

Labour’s Rhoda Grant said: “This is a total betrayal of the Highlands, a broken promise which I wonder if the Government ever intended to keep.”

Ms Gilruth said the result of the tendering process had been “unusual” and the Government is keen to re-tender the contract.

She also highlighted work on road safety the Government is carrying out on the route.

SNP MSP Emma Roddick said she shares the disappointment many people in the region will be feeling.

Coronavirus – Wed Jun 10, 2020
Fergus Ewing said there will be ‘shock, incredulity and anger’ in the local community (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)

She said: “I can’t overstate how difficult it will be for locals to believe that this project will be carried out in the face of another delay.”

Her SNP colleague Fergus Ewing said people in the Highlands would react with “shock, incredulity and anger”.

He said the design of Transport Scotland’s contracts had made the tendering process unattractive for contractors.

Ms Gilruth said there had been keen interest at the beginning of the process.

One of the interested contractors withdrew on the day of submission, she said, leaving only one bid remaining.