Still hope for junction upgrade

THERE may be a glimmer of hope that a cheaper junction design could be found to improve safety on the A90 near Marykirk.

Although roads agency Transport Scotland has said it has no plans to deal with the A937/A90 junction - a well-known accident blackspot - at last week’s Scottish Parliament public petitions committee, members decided to pursue an alternative to the grade-separated junction favoured 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 last month. 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.

Campaigners have said that pressure on the already busy junction will increase with future residential development in both Montrose and Laurencekirk and local MSP Nigel Don has also been pursuing the possibility of Angus and Aberdeenshire Councils jointly funding an improvement scheme.

He has arranged a meeting for early next month between officials from both local authorities and Nestrans, the Aberdeenshire transport partnership.

At last week’s petitions committee meeting North east MSP Mark McDonald backed Ms Fotheringham’s suggestion.

He said: “Perhaps we should contact the Scottish Government to see whether it might consider that solution, as it could be less costly than grade separation while still having the desired effect in terms of safety.

“A recent television programme highlighted the concerns surrounding the junction, which I pass regularly on my way to and from Edinburgh. Anyone with any experience of it will recognise that it is not ideal; that is probably the politest way of putting it.

“We might not get any action on grade separation in the immediate future, but it would be helpful if we could find a compromise solution.”

Mr McDonald’s views were echoed by member Nanette Milne, who watched the BBC documentary and said there was “no doubt” that the junction is dangerous.

She said: “The BBC person was horrified by the junction when he was there. Nigel Don should go ahead with the suggested meeting with the council and the North East of Scotland Transport Partnership to see whether something else can be done, short of a grade-separated junction.

“Something needs to be done, and quickly.”

Ms Fotheringham this week welcomed the MSPs’ support.

She said: “I appreciate that and this is an alternative that can be taken to Transport Scotland. I also appreciate anything that will improve safety at that junction.”

Mr Don said the meeting with Aberdeenshire Council, Angus Council and Nestrans will go ahead on Monday, January 9.

He said: “It is widely recognised that the south junction is a dangerous and busy crossing, and is of particular concern to the local community, as was recently highlighted by a BBC television programme.

“The recent local plan inquiry indicated that further development in Laurencekirk would require the need for grade separated junctions, north and south. As the junction is in Aberdeenshire but the majority of the traffic emanates from the Montrose area of Angus I have arranged a meeting of senior officials of Aberdeenshire Council, Angus Council and Nestrans in an effort to find ways of bringing enough funding together.

“We must ensure progress can be made towards securing funding for this vital project and I am hopeful that a way forward can be found at the meeting in January.”