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Caithness News Bulletins January 2003

January 2003 Caithness.org News 2002

Dec 2002

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CAMPAIGN FOR INVESTMENT IN LIFELINE RURAL ROADS

A campaign has been launched in the Highlands and Islands to make greater progress in transforming 1,700 km of lifeline single track roads to modern standards, at an estimated cost of 400 million.

HITRANS, the strategic transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands, is enlisting the support of a wide range of public agencies and businesses to argue for the annual funding for the upgrading of single track roads to be significantly increased to ensure improvements are made within the 20-year period of its strategy.

HITRANS intends commissioning work to prioritise the upgrade of the roads 1,100 km in Highland; 400 km in Argyll and Bute and 200 km in the Western Isles and to set out a lobbying campaign.

HITRANS has undertaken some preliminary research to determine the extent of investment needed. The effort required to bring the strategic single track road network up to two track standard would be in the order of 250 million. A further 90 million would be required for other A roads which are single track, and 50 million would be required to deal with weight restrictions on sole access lifeline roads.

HITRANS Chairman Councillor Charlie King, Mallaig, said: "Current programmed investment on this type of road is about 5 million per annum. This investment needs to be raised to 15 to 20 million per annum if the improvements are to be made within the next 20 years.

"In the first instance, we would like to draw together other stakeholders to support this campaign. We need to do more work on the economic and social justification for increasing investment, and there also needs to be more work to agree the priorities."

He said the investment would reduce accidents; reduce wear and tear to cars and lorries; and reduce journey times. It would also greatly improve the economies of rural communities and local businesses, such as tourism; fish farming; forestry; and crofting.

He added: "Better communication links are hugely important to rural development and that is why we want to broaden our support for this important campaign. These rural areas depend on roads, lorries and cars for their vital economic and social services. We are concerned that Government policy tends to concentrate on urban congestion and transfer from road to rail, and we must raise the profile of our rural lifeline links. It is not appropriate in the 21st century to continue to rely on 19th century roads for our lifeline services. "

He said the HITRANS strategy proposed intervention by lobbying in partnership with stakeholders for:

 - ensuring that the strategic rural road network is upgraded to two track standard within the next 20
   years, concentrating on those with extended journey times, or poor safety records, or where inadequate
   infrastructure is restricting economic and social development;

 - insuring maintenance standards are improved across the rural rod network to remove weight and width
   restrictions, and closure and route diversion are reduced during periods of bad weather;

 - improving the quality of the trunk road network linking rural areas to the rest of Scotland.

A number of strategic infrastructure projects are identified for consideration during the time-scale of the strategy. These include:

completion of the West Lochaber strategic route;

completion of Western Isles spinal road improvement;

  • completion of Wester Ross and Skye strategic circuits (A832/A851/A890);

  • improvement to the strategic road on Mull (A848/A849);

  • improvement to the Lochgilphead Oban road (A816) and the A815 in Argyll;

  • improvement to the A838 in Sutherland;

  • prioritised programme of rural roads upgrades to serve rural industries (forestry, farming, aquaculture etc.);

  • increased funding to deal with road maintenance backlogs, particularly on lifeline rural roads with potential traffic restrictions.

HITRANS is a voluntary partnership between the Local Authorities; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; and the Scottish Council Development and Industry. Its intention is to work together to pursue improvements to the regionally strategic transport services and infrastructure in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Its vision is for a regional transport system which provides cost effective access to all regional transport services in pursuit of social inclusion and optimum growth of the regional economy, whilst being safe to use and environmentally sustainable.