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A96 Action's response to recent media coverage on the economic benefits of the A96 Dualling Project

A96 Action would like to respond to recent news articles regarding Transport Scotland’s proposal to create a what is essentially a “new A96” between Inverness and Aberdeen. We note that there has been much emotional posturing in the media, unsupported by appropriate data analysis.

A96 Action’s policy advisors, who are specialists and lecturers in environmental issues, climate change, engineering, traffic analysis and agriculture, have produced a report: “A96 Dualling : a data-driven appraisal of the Economic Case, Environmental Consequences and Social Impact”, (A Link to it is on our "Economic factors" page under "Why it's Wrong" above ) to dispel the myths and present an evidence-based viewpoint on the economic case, the environmental consequences and the social impacts of the proposed road. Key facts from this report include:

· The Scottish Government plans to dual the entire A96 from Inverness to Aberdeen.

· Based on an analysis of data in the public domain and obtained through FOI, the present document demonstrates that dualling the entire length of the A96 is not supported by the traffic numbers and offers low value for public money.

· If the unsubstantiated figures for ‘driver frustration’ are excluded, the Benefit:Cost ratio for dualling the entire route is only 0.78. This means that for every pound invested in the road, the return will be 78 pence – i.e. a net loss of 22 pence to the Scottish taxpayer for every pound spent. In contrast, for partial dualling (without driver frustration data) the benefit is a net gain of 2 pence.

· The A96 between Inverurie and Inverness is 88 miles long. For approximately 60 miles of that, the traffic volumes are no higher than 55% of the capacity required to justify a 2-way wide single lane road. (from the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges – DMRB)

· The claimed economic benefits are not equal for all citizens and are particularly low for Aberdeenshire.

· The potential negative impact on rural communities and supply chains is not adequately considered in the Strategic Business Case.

· Access to the new road for rural communities will be very limited. For example, between Huntly and Kintore, there will be only 6 junctions on the new road instead of the current 50+ junctions on the existing A96. This does not support social inclusion and may damage the existing rural communities and businesses.

· According to the Strategic Business Case, the reduction in travel time achieved by full dualling of the A96, in comparison to partial dualling, is only 10 minutes. With a proposed cost of £3bn, this would equate to a cost to the Scottish taxpayer of £300 million per minute saved on the end to end journey between Aberdeen and Inverness.

· There is insufficient use of existing infrastructure which is at variance to a number of Scottish Government Policies.

· The environmental cost of the project is unacceptably high, and the project does not adequately address the Climate Emergency and legal requirements of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019.

· Building a new dual carriageway through pristine countryside rather than developing the existing infrastructure will cost more than 5.5 million tons of CO2e over the 30 years of operation in embedded construction carbon, soil carbon loss and the forgone photosynthesis of the area of construction.

· How the project will be paid for and the impact on future generations is not sufficiently well considered and information obtained under FOI suggests that Government has yet to address this.

· Government track record on delivering infrastructure projects is not entirely successful, with projects such as the recent example of the AWPR running over time and over cost. There is therefore a concern that the BCR indicated in the Strategic Business Case may fall further, such as is being seen with the HS2 project.

Finally, if the Scottish Government is successful in increasing use of public and active transport routes and home working, and in implementing the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, then individual car journeys would reduce and the new road could become obsolete before it is built.

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