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Caithness News Bulletins July 2004

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Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan has welcomed the announcement that work is to start on upgrading the A9, between Allt Briste northwards to the north of the Ord of Caithness. The contract for Phase 1 of the scheme has now been awarded and work on the £6 million project will begin on 9 August 2004.

Red Route - Off-line Lower Valley Route

Mrs Macmillan said, “This is excellent news for those who use this section of the A9 regularly.  Once the work to upgrade the 3 kilometres of this strategic route linking Caithness with the rest of Scotland has been completed, the local economy, business and tourism will all benefit. It will also make for easier access to the ferry ports serving the Orkney Islands. The upgrade will improve journey times and provide a dedicated north-bound overtaking opportunity, reducing driver frustration and helping to improve road safety.

The Executive is planning to improve this section of road in two phases, this will improve the operation and efficiency of the network and there will also be considerable safety benefits.”

Mrs Macmillan added, “Obviously there is much more required to bring the northernmost section of the A9 up to a decent standard. That part of the road between Dunbeath and the Ord of Caithness is unacceptable for a 21st century road network.

I have recently written to Transport Minister Nicol Stephen seeking further improvements for the A9 and calling for an Instrument Landing System to be installed at Wick airport. Transport links are vital to a county such as Caithness, particularly in light of the concerns surrounding Caithness Maternity services.

I am sure my Lib.Dem. colleagues will support my call for enhanced transport links for the Far North.”

The £12 million upgrade will create a major section of road and widen other parts of the carriageway. This will improve access to the northern ports and have an impact on road safety.

Phase One of the upgrade will involve a new section of road at Attl Briste North, a new climbing lane and widen 3 km of carriageway. This is very good news for local businesses, the local community and the many visitors to the Caithness area who use this stretch of road.

The A9 upgrade works will be mainly funded from the Executive's Transport Budget, with additional money expected from European funding. The upgrade on the A9 between Helmsdale and Ord of Caithness will be in two phases. Phase One runs from Allt Briste North to North of Ord of Caithness as part of the northern section. Phase Two runs from East Helmsdale to Allt Briste North as part of the southern section. Firms will tender for the Phase One works in March with work expected to start in late spring subject to completion of statutory procedures.

Phase One, which is estimated to cost £6.5 million, comprises mainly of on-line widening of some 3 km of existing road. It includes an off-line section at Allt Briste North, where a new culvert, farm underpass and embankment across the valley will be built, and a 600-metre section of climbing lane to improve overtaking opportunities constructed. One metre hard strips flanking the carriageway have been incorporated in the design to reflect comments from the cycling lobby.

Phase Two, which is estimated to cost £5.5 million, would be mainly off-line and would remove the tortuous bends and ease the steep gradients between Helmsdale and Allte Briste North. Draft Road Orders and an Environmental Statement are expected to be published for Phase Two in spring. It is expected that the contract for work will be awarded in Autumn 2005, subject to the completion of statutory procedures.