Fears Lochaber leg of A82 might not make list of major transport projects

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There are concerns this week that the A82 and its associated traffic congestions and safety problems in and around Fort William and elsewhere in Lochaber will not feature in the long-awaited 20-year programme of major Scottish transport infrastructure projects. The Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR2) project board is due to report soon. If the A82 were not to feature on the list this time round, it could mean another two decades passing before the region's main trunk road sees significant investment.

Transport Scotland has placed the emphasis for  STPR2 squarely on resilience and road safety. Recent figures showed the A82 suffered more fatal and serious road accidents in total in the three years 2017, 2018 and 2019  than any other road in Scotland -  73 as compared to the next closest, 69 recorded for the A9. Of these 73 accidents on the A82 18 were fatal, while the A9 had 21 fatal accidents in its total.

Caol and Mallaig councillor Ben Thompson told the Lochaber Times: 'We're expecting the Strategic Transport Projects Review to report its phase one findings very soon. Phase one is the big transport projects that will see boots on the ground in the next couple of years.

Lochaber councillor Ben Thompson. Photograph: Abrightside Photography.

'The indications I am getting is that there will be nothing in there for the West Highlands - despite our main road and rail transport links being in dreadful condition. 'The A82 has the worst serious and fatal accident record in Scotland.

In fact it stands out with 13 per cent of all the road fatalities in Scotland in recent years. We know, as our own communities in Lochaber have been dreadfully impacted. 'If there is no significant investment to improve that road, I would fundamentally question the whole government process that claims to have safety for travellers as a main objective.

'For the West Highlands to make a strong recovery from the pandemic, we need transport investment, including a big shift of heavy goods off our roads and onto rail or sea; we need safer, wider roads with separate active travel facilities, and we need to deal with the rapidly growing motorhome market, by investing in quality roadside facilities. 'It is about time our MSPs delivered transport infrastructure for the West Highlands.' Phase one of STRP2 are those projects classed as top priorities to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic to help rebuild economy and involves projects that can be delivered in the next two or three years.

This initial priorities list might not necessarily influence the phase two projects but there is the chance these phase one schemes become the major priorities for the whole of the STPR2. Asked for her view, local MSP Kate Forbes MSP told us: 'There are obvious transport needs in Lochaber - the A82, the West Highland Line and congestion in Fort William. These issues need to be resolved.

'I accept that there aren't quick fixes, but as a representative for Lochaber I take my responsibility to campaign for improvements very seriously.' CAPTION: The A82 stretch at Torlundy has been the scene of a number of serious road accidents.

Photograph: Abrightside Photography.

NO F41 A82 Torlundy

EXTRA pic: FW Councillor Ben Thompson 1no JP

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