Campaigners urging for a crossing to be built allowing cyclists, walkers and horse riders to cross the A9 at Crubenmore near Newtonmore, currently being turned into a dual carriageway, are optimistic that it will now be built following an about –turn by Transport Scotland. The change in approach follows the intervention of First Minister Alex Salmond, whose Scottish National Party won an overall majority in elections to the Scottish Parliament earlier this month, and planned protests this summer will not now take place.
Previously, Transport Scotland had refused to provide a means of crossing the dual carriageway. Protesters maintained that the dual carriageway cuts across an ancient right of way popular with cyclists, walkers and horse riders that followed the route of one of General Wade’s military roads, constructed in the 18th Century. There had been plans to stage a series of blockades across the road, the main route through the Highlands from Perth to Inverness, this summer.
Prior to the election, Mr Salmond had pledged to instruct Transport Scotland to go ahead with the crossing if his party was re-elected and it has been confirmed that a feasibility study will now be conducted, with a spokeswoman for the agency telling the Caledonian Mercury that the required road orders could be in place by the middle of August.
Staff from the agency met campaigners from horse-riding and walking groups last week to talk about what needs to be done, although it could be two years before the crossing is actually completed.
Dave Morris, director of Ramblers Scotland, said that the change of tack by the government had come about following a meeting between Mr Salmond and the organisation’s convenor, former MSP, Dennis Canavan.
“Officials were clearly acting on the first minister’s instructions to investigate the action needed to build an underpass at Crubenmore and we had discussions about the detailed design and location requirements, all of which seemed satisfactory,” he explained.
“There is an intention to construct an underpass, or bridge if this proves to be a better alternative, which will fully meet the needs of walkers, cyclists and horseriders and comply with disability requirements.”
One of the more active campaigners for the crossing, Ruaridh Ormiston, owner of the Newtonmore Riding Centre, welcomed the news that the crossing had been given the go-ahead, although he regretted the fact that it had taken eight months and the personal intervention of the First Minister to get to this stage.
“Earlier discussions would have ensured that an underpass was included in the current works,” he insisted. “It will not be ready when the new dual carriageway opens this August so some interim arrangement will need to be made.”
Referring to the right of way provided by the military road, Candy Cameron of the British Horse Society said: “It is vitally important that these ancient routes are preserved and kept safe for future generations to enjoy. It would be irresponsible of us to allow them to be closed forever by barriers like the new A9 dual carriageway at Crubenmore.”
A spokesman for the Mr Salmond said that the First Minister had told Transport Scotland to carry out additional survey work “with a view to promoting new road orders that include establishing an underpass.”
He continued: “Furthermore, in making a final decision about the A9 at Crubenmore the Scottish government, and indeed Transport Scotland, will consult with all interested parties, including the Ramblers.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.