How many of the most dangerous single-carriageway sections of the A9 are in Caithness?
New safety data that shows 10 out of the 11 most dangerous single-carriageway sections of the A9 are north of Inverness has sparked renewed calls for urgent investment in the road to Caithness.
The figures – released by Transport Scotland following a Freedom of Information request – show there are 11 single-carriageway sections of the A9 between Perth and Scrabster that are more dangerous than the national average.
Of these, 10 sections are north of Inverness – with five of them in Caithness. The most dangerous two sections cover a five-kilometre length of the route around Tain, where there have been 12 accidents leading to injury between 2019 and 2021.
The Caithness sections which are on the list are, in order of severity, from the Bridge of Tachar to Mybster crossroads; the A9 through Thurso town centre; Helmsdale to Latheron; Loch Stemster (north of Loch Rangag) to Bridge of Tachar; and the Mybster crossroads to Georgemas junction.
Other problem areas are highlighted through Easter Ross, with a single-carriageway section at Aviemore the only location that is above the national average accident rate which is south of Inverness.
Caithness Roads Recovery (CRR) co-founder Iain Gregory, who is also a retired senior police officer and accident investigator, said the figures “speak for themselves,” and called for a “firm commitment” from the Scottish Government and Westminster to upgrade the road.
“CRR are fully in favour of dualling the A9 north to Inverness,” Mr Gregory said. “Sadly, it has not been, and lives are lost every year on this dangerous and inadequate road.
“However, there seems to be little or no resolve to carry out any works north of Inverness, apart from a recent - and very welcome - suggestion that dualling should be completed as far as the Nigg roundabout, following a meeting between Fergus Ewing MSP, Jamie Stone MP, and Michael Gove MP.
"Unfortunately, once again, no mention was made of the additional 81 miles of the A9 north to Scrabster, or indeed of the A99 from Latheron to Wick.”
Describing the road north as “woefully inadequate,” Mr Gregory backed proposals to dual the road to Nigg, and argued that extending average speed cameras to that point would help to make the road much safer too.
He added: “Above all, however, we urgently need major works on the A9 from just north of the Dornoch Bridge, right the way to Scrabster.
“I somehow doubt that many of our leading politicians and decision makers have any idea just how antiquated and dangerous it actually is - narrow, twisting, extremely busy, and utterly inadequate for 21st-century traffic.”
The Scottish Government recently announced that the next section of the A9 to be upgraded to dual carriageway would be the Moy to Tomantin section, south of Inverness. It is expected to cost around £150 million.
Edward Mountain, Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: “I have met with Caithness Roads Recovery group and have seen first-hand the state of the roads in Caithness. I have also worked with them to draw political attention to the issue of local road maintenance.
“The Highlands is not getting its fair share of investment that it absolutely deserves and needs. The Highlands is being left out and let down.”
In response, a Transport Scotland spokesperson said that the A9 north of the Kessock Bridge is highlighted in the government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review as a “potential example” where road safety investment could be prioritised.
Two independent reviews “did not identify a requirement to dual the A9 north of Inverness,” they said, but “road safety is of paramount importance to the government and, indeed, to everyone.
“We have an ongoing programme of road safety improvements on the A9 and more widely across the trunk road network. The A9 safety group convenes on a regular basis to discuss the safety of the road.”