NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE
Fundamentally it does not address the traffic issues
It could be argued that the main reason for this project is to fulfill the governments commitment to connect all major cities in Scotland by 2030. When looking at the Aberdeen to Inverness route specifically, this broad stroke approach doesn't make sense across the entirety of the route - this is supported by the Strategic Business Case (SBC) published in 2014 that states that the option of "end to end" dualling does not give the best cost/benefit analysis". It does, however, ultimately recommend but states this is because "This option achieves the ambitions set out by the Scottish Ministers of connecting Scottish Cities by dual carriageway". However admirable the ambition may be, surely addressing the issues behind road improvements (such as improving traffic flow) should be put above political ambition?
ADDRESSING LOCAL TRAFFIC ISSUES
Based upon the Traffic Scotland Data base for actual traffic counts in 2017 here is the contribution of road and towns/villages to the total A96 traffic, this is calculated by the difference between the traffic activities each side of the junction, see below. What is not known from the surveys is how much of the traffic comes from outside Inverurie on three roads (B9001, B9170 & B993) and hence the contribution from Oldmeldrum is not quantifiable, although this is one of the justifications used by Transport Scotland for Dualling the A96.
Huntly and A97: 235
Oldmeldrum via A920: -39
Insch via B9002: 2,872
Inverurie Morrison's roundabout: 7,770
Inverurie Pt Elphinstone: 9,054
It is hard to see how any of the new routes will alleviate the traffic on the A96 but it may add more traffic at Kintore causing more tailbacks towards Aberdeen as it attracts traffic from the NE through Oldmeldrum.
However this contribution is not known due to lack of measurements. It will certainly not improve the lot of the Inverurie to Aberdeen commuters. Traffic Scotland needs to measure the flow on the B9001, B993 and B9170 to justify the road.
(We believe a new count is currently ongoing and we will be pushing Transport Scotland to release thee new figures as soon as possible)
Read this P&J article from 2017 to read an article on Inverurie traffic congestion.
Exposure to adverse weather
Some of the proposed routes north would pass over high ground which is more prone to snow and wind. For example, route the Violet route would bisect the B979 at a location that is often prone to snow drifts and experiences closures due snow and ice. In contrast the existing route for the A96 follows low ground along valley floors and is less susceptible to winter weather closures and easier to keep open - this is of particular relevance to high sided transport vehicles.
Widening the existing A96
This would undoubtedly reduce the GHG emissions, economic cost and the impact on the rural community and it could solve the Inverurie traffic problems. In addition, a large part of the road between the two Inverurie roundabouts is already wide enough to be dualled. It is only a small section where a lack of coordinated, forward thinking and joined up planning has allowed planning permission for buildings close to the A96. Indeed the study by Jacobs in 2015 of the existing A96 infrastructure indicated that widening of the road and extending the required bridges, culverts and underpasses was possible. This option has been dismissed but there is little clarity on why?
Meetings with the local community would also suggest that many simply won’t want to take the Violet route, which creates a large detour off the roundabout at Kintore over the hills, especially in winter when the weather conditions are often dangerous. The original, declassified A96 beyond the town offers a much more attractive prospect to motorists, rendering the proposed Violet route pointless.
““They (the reporters) conclude that they think the A96 will not address all issues of congestion in Inverurie town centre but that any solution would be best managed in full knowledge of the A96 option that is to be progressed.””