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Pressure mounts on Highland Council to improve safety at Black Isle crash site

By Val Sweeney

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Sandy Mitchell at Littlemill Bridge.
Sandy Mitchell at Littlemill Bridge.

One local resident said drivers who used the approach to Littlemill Bridge near Munlochy were unwittingly playing Russian roulette with their lives and has demanded improvements.

Sandy Mitchell, of Avoch, is not the first person to raise concens about the busy stretch of road. Black Isle councillor Jennifer Barclay also voiced worries after Mohamed Chache (50) died after his Cromarty-bound bus collided with the bridge and overturned. Several passengers were also injured.

Although the circumstances of the tragic accident are the subject of a police investigation, Mr Mitchell is calling on Highland Council to carry out road safety improvements at the bridge and between the A9 Munlochy turn off and Rosemarkie.

“Very frequently approaching the bridge from the Munlochy side, drivers need to brake and even stop as the priority sign on the Inverness side is so often ignored by oncoming vehicles,” said the 79-year-old seasonal tourist guide, who uses the road regularly.

“It becomes a sort of Russian roulette. I suspect the reason some vehicles don’t stop and give way is that the sign on the Inverness side is very close to the stop line.

“There are a number of obvious remedies. One would be much bigger and better signage on the Inverness side. Another would be the installation of traffic lights or, and most costly, would be a realignment of the road itself at that very awkward and narrow bottleneck.”

Mr Mitchell, of Factory Lane, said the condition of road markings on the B9161 and A832 between the A9 and Rosemarkie were also a hazard for drivers.

“This is an extremely busy road and after dark, with the lights of oncoming traffic, it is very dangerous,” he said.

“The main reason for this is the very poor state of the road markings along many stretches of the road. The roadside white lines are completely worn away in many places as are the centre lines. The cats eyes appear in very poor condition.

“In addition, in many places the verge is a vertical earth and turf bank giving no leeway on the nearside of the road, particularly for wide vehicles like trucks and buses.”

He maintained the state of markings and signage were in stark contrast to those on the A832 between Garve and Ullapool where the centre line and verge markings and reflective signage were “absolutely excellent”.

Councillor Barclay has called for speeds to be monitored at the bridge and has questioned whether the limit needs to be reduced from the present 40mph.

She also said nearby residents had previously mentioned often hearing drivers tooting horns at the bottleneck bridge.

Mr Chache, who was popular among colleagues and passengers, was driving a 37-seater Stagecoach service bus at the time of the collision,

Born in Zanzibar, he moved to Inverness 17 years ago after marrying his wife, Sandra. He also left a mother, six brothers and two sisters.

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “We are unable to comment as the incident is subject to a police investigation.”

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