Discussions have started on the construction of an underpass for walkers, cyclists and horse riders in a new section of the A9 Trunk Road at Crubenmore in the Cairngorms National Park.
A9 Underpass Planning Underway
First Minister’s intervention leads to Transport Scotland meeting with Access Campaigners
The discussions follow a controversy which erupted last November when work started on the new road works and it was discovered that no provision had been made for access across the road, despite the presence of a 300 year old General Wade Military Road which today is regularly used by outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
National access campaigners for walking, cycling and horse riding joined with the Director of Newtonmore Riding Centre, Ruaridh Ormiston, who had initiated the campaign and petition for an underpass. This focused on the elections for the Scottish Parliament and culminated in a protest event on 20 April which was addressed by the Liberal Democrat candidate for Badenoch, Alan Macrae. By then the First Minister, Alex Salmond, had intervened and, following a meeting with former MP and MSP, Dennis Canavan, expressed his commitment to resolving the problem in a letter of 18 April to the Ramblers Scotland Convener, which stated:
"You raised concerns regarding the lack of a crossing facility on the A9 at Crubenmore. As you may be aware it is not possible to include an underpass under the current construction contract.
“However, I have looked into the matter and share some of the concerns you have highlighted. I therefore write to confirm that should I be re-elected as First Minister, I will instruct Transport Scotland officials to undertake further survey work at the site with a view to promoting new road orders that include establishing an underpass. Furthermore, in making a final decision about the A9 at Crubenmore, the Scottish Government, and indeed Transport Scotland, will consult with all interested parties, including the Ramblers."
Commenting on the Transport Scotland discussions,
Dave Morris, Director of Ramblers Scotland, said:
"We met with Transport Scotland officials last Friday and had a productive meeting. The officials were clearly acting on the First Minister's instructions to investigate the action needed to build an underpass at Crubenmore and we had discussions about the detailed design and location requirements, all of which seemed satisfactory. There is an intention to construct an underpass, or bridge if this proves to be a better alternative, which will fully meet the needs of walkers, cyclists and horseriders and comply with disability requirements.
“We look forward to further meetings with officials as the work proceeds through the planning and environmental assessment stages and hope this important facility will be in place within a couple of years to facilitate use of General Wade's Military Road where it crosses the A9 and provides a key part of the path network which surrounds Newtonmore.
“We are very pleased that this substantial change in the situation flows directly from the First Minister's decision to examine the problem and, after discussion with Ramblers Scotland Convener, Dennis Canavan, to issue the necessary instructions to Transport Scotland".
Ruaridh Ormiston, Director of Newtonmore Trekking Centre, said:
"I am very pleased that we are now finally discussing an underpass at Etteridge with Transport Scotland but disappointed it has taken 8 months and the direct intervention of the First Minister to reach this stage. Earlier discussions would have ensured that an underpass was included in the current works. It will not be ready when the new dual carriageway opens this August so some interim arrangement will need to be made, probably involving an "at level" crossing, combined with a 50 mph speed limit over adjacent sections of the carriageway."
International endurance rider, Candy Cameron, was representing the British Horse Society at the meeting with Transport Scotland.
Candy Cameron, Loch Ness Riding and representing the British Horse Society, said:
"As the Highlands rely more and more on tourism as an industry, especially in the National Park area, it is vitally important that these ancient routes are preserved and kept safe for future generations to enjoy. It would be irresponsible of us to allow them to be "closed" forever by barriers like the new A9 dual carriageway at Crubenmore. The Wade's Road in this area is important for both local users as well as for those on more long distance routes passing through Badenoch. Crubenmore is an important crossing point for East and West as well as North and South routes."