Funding “has to be found”

LOCAL safety campaigner Jill Fotheringham has said money will have to be found “from somewhere” to upgrade the A937/A90 junction near Marykirk.

Costings for five different schemes at the accident blackspot, ranging from £13 million to £28 million, were put forward in a 100-page document last week by Transport Scotland which was requested to carry out the “cost refinement exercise” by transport minister Keith Brown.

No commitment has been given by the Scottish Government to implement any of the schemes but Ms Fotheringham, who has been campaigning for grade separation since 1994, this week said she intends to keep up pressure to have the junction upgraded.

She said: “Transport Scotland have offered to meet with me to go over the report and I tend to take them up on that, but I will also seek some professional advice to see if the cost is excessive or not.

“If that’s the cost then that’s the cost and it has to be raised from somewhere. I’ve been calling for this since 1994 and there’s no sign of me giving up now. I’ll hang on like a dog with a bone and thinking of the lives lost there and the families affected keeps me going.”

Earlier this year the A937 was listed among the top five most dangerous Scottish roads by the European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP) which she said makes the case for safety improvements more pressing.

The road, its accident record and the junction with the A90 will feature in a BBC documentary next month to which Ms Fotheringham has contributed.

She said: “It will contrast these with five roads that have been upgraded and how their safety has improved. That has to tell the government something. Keith Brown has said he wants to improve safety on all of Scotland’s roads and that should include looking at the dangerous ones to decide how he is going to fix them.”

Local politicians are also increasing pressure on the Scottish Government to take action to tackle the junction.

Councillor David May has welcomed the release of Transport Scotland’s report although he said the costings appear to be “very high”.

He said: “The junction even at present is considered one of the most dangerous roads in Scotland so action is needed before there is another fatality. Furthermore, given the growth of housing in Montrose and the developments round the harbour, in addition to the potential possibilities at GSK and the renewables sector, this junction is an ideal candidate for using some of the government’s capital budget to fund the changes needed.

My concern is that the government hope to kick this into the long grass and continue to do as they have done in the last five years, i.e. nothing, until Jill and her campaign team forced the limited action that has been taken. I can assure the government that this junction is far too important and dangerous for it to be dropped.”

The matter was also raised with Mr Brown in parliament at last week’s general question time by both North East MSP Alison McInnes and Angus North and Mearns MSP Nigel Don, who were told the subject had been referred back to the petitions committee.

Mrs McInnes said: “The local community will be frustrated by the minister’s answer. There have been too many lives lost and people injured at the junction. Over the last 10 years there have been four fatal collisions, 15 serious and 22 slight injury accidents.”

Mr Don said he recognised that a tight budget settlement and lack of capital borrowing powers mean that the government does not have funds to deal with “even this deserving case”.

He added: “Now that we have a clearer idea of the likely costs I shall be pursuing this with Aberdeenshire Council as the local planning authority.”