Thurso roadworks could be 'devastating for the town' in run up to Christmas
Roadworks being carried out at a busy Thurso junction – and set to last for months through Christmas and into the new year – could be "devastating for the town".
Concerns have been raised over the impact on businesses at an important time of year for local retailers, as well as motorists, with delays of up to 50 minutes reported.
The work, undertaken by BEAR Scotland at the Toll junction, is to improve road safety for pedestrians and cyclists on the A9 and A836 Castletown road, and will result in controlled pedestrian crossings being installed.
A new footway adjacent to the Tesco supermarket will be included along with a short section of path next to the A836 road. The work is due to cost over £170,000.
But local community councillors in Thurso are concerned about the time the project is expected to take and made their views known at this week's meeting.
Louise Smith said the work, which got under way at the end of October and will last 14 weeks until late January, could have an adverse impact on traffic and businesses in the run-up to Christmas and the new year.
She said the roadworks could be "devastating for the town" and claimed some members of the public are "very upset" about what is happening. Ms Smith argued that the community council should have been consulted on the work before it got under way.
Temporary traffic lights have been installed while the work is carried out but there have been reports of motorists and buses being delayed for up to 50 minutes.
Thurso and Northwest Caithness Highland councillor Matthew Reiss said the improvements will benefit the town when completed but said it is not helping at the moment.
"It is bizarre that it is taking three months to do this work and I am not totally convinced all these cones are needed," he said. Councillor Reiss is concerned the roadworks could slow down the emergency services.
Police sergeant Stephen Todd, who attended the meeting, said the work was causing problems. "It is an absolute nightmare for us," he stated.
Community councillor Colin Johnston queried the time it is taking to carry out the work and said he would prefer to see a roundabout installed rather than traffic lights. "If this was happening in China it would have been done in 10 days," he said.
Thurso provost and local councillor Struan Mackie would also prefer a roundabout at the junction and pointed out there were requests from members of the public for a crossing on the A836 road.
Gill Arrowsmith said the work is having "a big impact" on businesses and felt "something has to be done and quickly".
Ron Gunn, a Thurso and Northwest Highland Caithness councillor, said some people were travelling to Wick by Halkirk to shop in order to avoid the roadworks at the Toll junction. He suggested that the concerns should be raised at next week's meeting of the Caithness Transport Forum.
Speaking afterwards, community council secretary Iain Gregory said he has received several reports about the extent of the delays being experienced by the public because of the roadworks. They range from five to 50 minutes, he said.
Mr Gregory pointed out that over 20 years ago it was suggested that a roundabout should be installed at the Toll junction but it did not happen.
A BEAR Scotland spokesperson said: “The works in Thurso involve replacing the existing traffic signals at the junction to improve the facilities for pedestrians crossing the A9 and A836.
“This will improve road safety for these vulnerable road users and help encourage active travel.
“To undertake the works safely, there is a requirement to turn off and remove the existing permanent traffic signals and replace these with temporary signals until the new signals are installed and commissioned.
“This system has pedestrian crossings incorporated at all crossing points to help pedestrians negotiate the junction more safely whilst roadworks take place. “Adjustments have been made to the timings and we will make further adjustments where possible to minimise delays.
“We are carrying out the works now to avoid the busiest tourist season and minimise disruption.
“There will be several changes to the traffic management as the works progress and we will monitor it to ensure it is as efficient as possible.”