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'Light at the end of the tunnel' for A9 dualling?

By Scott Maclennan

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Full dualling of the A9 from Inverness to Perth is now promised to be completed by 2035.
Full dualling of the A9 from Inverness to Perth is now promised to be completed by 2035.

Ten years later than previously promised, but at least there may be the hope of “light at the end of the tunnel” – that was the response to the Scottish Government’s renewed bid to dual the A9.

Transport secretary Mairi McAllan told the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday that plans are being laid to complete dualling between Inverness and Perth by 2035 – a decade later than the previously promised deadline.

Hoping to convince doubters on all sides, she set out the most detailed prospectus for the work since dualling was first promised 16 years ago.

First Minister Humza Yousaf promised multiple times during his campaign to succeed Nicola Sturgeon, and since, that he would deliver on dualling.

After Ms McAllan’s announcement, he signed a pledge agreed with the Ross-shire Journal’s sister paper, The Inverness Courier, to complete the dualling in full by 2035, to keep Highlanders updated and to prioritise the needs of communities to unlock the region’s economic potential.

Mr Yousaf’s Highland rival for the SNP leadership, MSP Kate Forbes, welcomed the announcement, but said public confidence ultimately depended on continuing transparency as well as delivery.

MSP Kate Forbes. Picture: Callum Mackay
MSP Kate Forbes. Picture: Callum Mackay

“I think that 2035, whilst clearly 10 years late, is at least an objective and an aim and they’ve also set out importantly the objectives of the aims before them by which point they expect each smaller section to be complete,” she said.

“I think the SNP has promised to dual the A9 and ultimately the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

“In other words, once the A9 is dualled, that will be the point at which the people of the Highlands can have confidence that we have made good on those promises.”

She added: “It’s important to acknowledge that I get how frustrating it is that the deadline has been missed and I am in no way under-playing that, but I think, now that that has been acknowledged, what people want to see is light at the end of the tunnel.

Mairi McAllan delivering the update earlier this week.
Mairi McAllan delivering the update earlier this week.

The new plan of works aims to see 48 per cent of the A9 dualled by the end of 2030, rising to 53 per cent by the end of 2031 and 85 per cent by 2033 before the final sections are done by 2035.

Different sections will be funded in different ways, either through the traditional route of capital investment from the government or by a mutual investment model (MIM) which uses private partners to build and maintain public assets, the Scottish Government paying a fee to cover the costs.

The programme is now broken down into:

  • A9 Dualling North: Tomatin to Moy (completion date: 2027); Dalraddy to Slochd and Crubenmore to Kincraig (by winter 2026/27 – MIM).
  • A9 Dualling Central: Killiecrankie to Glen Garry, Glen Garry to Dalwhinnie, Dalwhinne to Crubenmore (procurement in 2028/29, contracts awarded by 2030 then five years of work, funded by MIM).
  • A9 Dualling South: Pitlochry to Killiecrankie (tendered in 2025, contract awarded in 2026 and completed by the end of 2030); Tay Crossing to Ballinluig (procured in 2024, contracts awarded in 2025 and finished by the end of 2028). The final part of the south section will see the Pass of Birnam to Tay Crossing procured on 2027, work contracted in 2028 and completed by 2032.

Ms McAllan said: “This programme has faced challenges and I acknowledge that it has not progressed at the pace we would have liked.

First Minister Humza Yousaf signing the A9 Pledge. Picture: Callum Mackay..
First Minister Humza Yousaf signing the A9 Pledge. Picture: Callum Mackay..

“However, the A9 is the backbone of Scotland. It must be safe, reliable and resilient as possible – and that’s what the Scottish Government will deliver.

“This government is restating its commitment to dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness – with a concrete plan. The approach I have set out means that the Highlands can have confidence that the considerable benefits of A9 dualling will be delivered in full.”

Mr Yousaf said: “We have today reaffirmed our commitment to fully dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness, and confirmed a timetable.”

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