Routing of dualled A96 needs to consider role of A947 problem route, say councillors

Transport Scotland has been urged to carefully consider how the dualling of the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road could aid proposals to improve another major route.

Aberdeenshire councillors believe a route to the east of Inverurie could not only alleviate concerns about effects on the iconic nearby landscape around Bennachie, but also improve safety and journey times on the A947 Aberdeen to Banff road.

The comments were made at a meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) in Aberdeen last week.

Members of the committee were considering the results of a consultation on a proposed Route Improvement Strategy for the A947.

There has been local concern about the safety of the 41-mile route for many years and council officers were tasked with finding ways in which it could be improved.

Although no budget is currently available for long-term improvement works, councillors wanted to take a comprehensive look at the options, taking local views into account.

The strategy is intended to be a body of evidence from which to make a case for the funding of future improvements against a backdrop of competiting priorities.

It is hoped it will ultimately provide a route which is more fit for purpose, removing driver frustration while improving journey times and safety, benefitting the economy.

Options proposed include increasing police speed checks, creating more overtaking sections, or even a full dualling of the southern section of the route.

The improvement strategy has been out for consultation with road users and communities along the route, also gathering the views of local councillors.

ISC chairman, David Aitchison, said Aberdeenshire Council and Transport Scotland should continue to work together to solve common problems.

“While the focus of this report is on the A947, the link with the dualling of the nearby A96 is something which this council, I feel, must highlight and promote to Transport Scotland,” he said. “I don’t think we would be doing our job if we didn’t do that.”

Councillors heard officers have already raised with the transport agency the potential benefits to be gained by the careful routing of the new dualled trunk road.

Mr Aitchison added: “I am pleased that contact has been made with Transport Scotland on this issue and would encourage officers to continue with that and to continue raising the matter whenever possible.”

Speaking after the meeting, ISC vice chair, Stephen Smith, said: “During the consultation, area committees clearly recognised how the proposed dualling of the A96 could link into any potential upgrading of the Dyce to Newmachar to Oldmeldrum sections of the A947.

“Given the stage Transport Scotland’s project to dual the A96 is at, with the next stage of design due to begin later this year, this is an entirely appropriate time for them to consider how adjacent routes could be positively affected by the work.”

Councillor Bryan Stuart (Inverurie and District) said momentum had to be maintained and described the routing of the A96 as “very relevant”. He said there was a strong case to be made for the route to head to the east of Inverurie, with local constituents already concerned about the potential impact of work on the iconic landscape of Bennachie, to the west of the town.

The committee approved the A947 Route Improvement Strategy and an associated, shorter-term action plan on how to take the strategy forward.

The action plan details both improvements which the council would seek to be making, as well as those it could put in place, should funding become available. 

The council’s Head of Transportation, Ewan Wallace, said: “We now have a strong base to build on in terms of where we go with this piece of work.”

Councillors welcomed the high quality of the report and the progress which has been made on the issue to date.

They emphasised that an improved A947 would not only benefit safety, but also the economy of north Aberdeenshire.

The intention to fully dual the A96 was announced by the Scottish Government in December 2011, with a commitment to complete the work by 2030.

The report to committee, including the approved A947 Route Improvement Strategy and associated action plan, can be viewed on Aberdeenshire Council’s website.