Evidence must continue to be gathered

THE CASE for an improved junction on the A90 at Laurencekirk should continue to be pressed to the Scottish Government to secure funding, the area’s MSP has said.

Nigel Don met recently with officials from NESTRANS, the transport partnership for Aberdeen city and shire, Aberdeenshire and Angus Councils, to pursue the possibility of the authorities jointly funding an improvement scheme.

He said that while there is a will within both councils to help make the case for a safer junction, it was pointed out that as the A90 is a trunk road it is Transport Scotland’s responsibility.

The roads agency has already said it has no plans to deal with the A937/A90 junction - a well-known accident blackspot - despite campaigners’ concerns that pressure on the already busy crossing will increase with future residential development in both Montrose and Laurencekirk.

Mr Don said he has been “encouraged” by the local authorities’ response.

He said: “No-one disagrees that we need a safer crossing and all present pledged to work towards that end. Both local authorities are prepared to do what they can to assist, but they made the entirely reasonable point that this is a trunk road which is the responsibility of Transport Scotland.

“Personally I cannot think of another location outside a city on an arterial route where there has to be a 50mph limit. In my view this is not a permanent solution to a serious problem. We need to make physical improvements to this junction to make it safe.”

NESTRANS director Derick Murray has agreed to draw together information from local planners about the expected increase in traffic flows in coming years. Mr Murray will also contact Transport Scotland to query the sustainability of a 50mph section on a strategic arterial road and ask the agency what could be done to make this limit unnecessary.

The Scottish Parliament public petitions committee threw the scheme a lifeline last month when members decided to pursue an alternative to the grade-separated junction favoured previously by campaigners.

Transport Scotland has said that a redesign scheme would cost between £13 million and £28 million, but local woman Jill Fotheringham, who submitted the original petition to the committee, put forward the idea of a split level junction rather than grade separation.

The idea arose from a suggestion put forward in the BBC documentary ‘Britain’s Killer Roads’, broadcast in November. An independent roads engineer consulted by the programme makers mooted the idea as a more reasonable alternative, observing that the current layout is one of the most dangerous designs that could be employed.

Mr Don added that the case for improvements must be pursued with the Scottish Government although he acknowledged that Transport Scotland’s resources are finite.

He said: “Although there may be some financial contribution from the developers of housing or other projects, it is unlikely this will come anywhere near the cost of a grade separated junction. Therefore we must continue to build the case for investment by Transport Scotland in this busy arterial route which is vital to the economy of North East Scotland.

“It’s clear the Scottish Government simply does not have the resources to make every road improvement required in Scotland. They will set their priorities on the basis of the evidence available to them. That’s why it’s essential we continue to gather evidence to make the best possible case to ministers for investment in this crossing. I welcome the positive approach of all three agencies who took time to meet me about this.”