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Ruling On Trans-European Network Roads Sought
SNP politicians have joined forces with local campaigners in a bid to get one of the Highland's most notorious stretches of road – the A9 at Berriedale Braes – brought up to a standard fit for one of Europe's Trans-European Network Routes.
MEP Ian Hudghton and MSP Rob Gibson describe it as "absolute nonsense" that the A9 from Inverness to Thurso is part of the Trans-European Network yet falls far short of the standards set by the European Commission for TEN routes. They want the Scottish
Executive to recognise the A9's importance to the north of Scotland and to apply for EU money to get it improved.
Mr Hudghton, a frequent visitor to Caithness, was contacted earlier this year by Cllr William Mowat who has long campaigned for realignment of the road at Berriedale. Although the road was being resurfaced, local residents were furious that nothing was being done to tackle the real problem – that of the steep gradients and torturous bends. Recognising that the A9 is a TEN route, it was hoped that the EU might intervene.
Explaining what happened next, Mr Hudghton said:
"When Cllr Mowat called me earlier this year, the first thing I did was to obtain written confirmation from the Commission that the A9 from Inverness north is indeed part of the Trans European Network. A couple of years ago in answer to an enquiry to the Commission, I received the Commission's response that TEN routes should "guarantee users a high, uniform and continuous level of services, comfort and safety."
However, when I asked then to define what was meant by a "high level" of service I was told that "no internationally acknowledged definitions of these concepts exists."
In the absence of a clear definition from the Commission, Mr Hudghton has now asked Caithness based MSP Rob Gibson to step in and seek a ruling from the Scottish Executive on what they deem to be high levels of service applicable to TEN routes.
Speaking from his office in Wick, Mr Gibson said:
"Although the Commission has given a broad definition of what's expected of Trans-European Network routes, it is up to the Scottish Government to define how this applies to Scotland's key routes. I want to find out how the Transport Minister defines the "high levels" referred to by the Commission. I also want to ask why the standards of TEN routes throughout Scotland are so variable?
"There is no doubt that many excellent road networks exist in the more populous areas of Scotland's central belt. Meanwhile in more remote areas, such as Caithness we have to make do with a transport infrastructure more suited to the era of the pony and trap than the 21st century. This is simply not acceptable. For the whole of Scotland to have a chance economically to compete with the rest of Europe and with the wider world this situation must urgently be addressed. I shall be raising all these issues with the Scottish Executive as a matter of urgency and pointing out the vital importance of bringing the A9, and other TEN routes in the Highlands up to the high level of "services, comfort and safety" they deserve."