Second stage appraisal published by Transport Scotland
Following publication of the Initial Appraisal (Case for Change) and Public Consultation reports in March and October, respectively, the Part 1 Appraisal Report is now available on Transport Scotland’s website.
This 202 page report by consultants WSP is the third stage of the grotesquely bloated appraisal process being conducted to consider road safety improvements at the junction and extending to Tore roundabout, in response to local concerns expressed over several years. In effect it reduces the long list of options put forward by the Case for Change report to a shorter list which will go forward to the next stage of detailed appraisal. After that, perhaps, something serious might actually be done.
A small positive step is that lighting is currently being installed at the junction - an option which does not seem to be iincluded in the list considered by this report.
WSP consultants were paid £48,646.68 from public funds for the Case for Change report, and no doubt will receive similar if not greater sums for this and the final stage of the appraisal process.
The need for action is emphasised by the recent fatal accident reported below.
Double fatality at Munlochy junction
An 86 year old woman died in hospital following a collision between two cars at the A9 Munlochy junction on 19 November. An 86 year old man who was a passenger in the same car, died of his injuries on 4 December.
Consultation report published
Transport Scotland -
We've published the findings of the public consultation on options for the A9 between North Kessock junction and Tore roundabout. This is part of the Preliminary Appraisal work being carried out to assess potential improvement opportunities to enhance safety and operational performance of the route for a range of users. These findings follow earlier engagement with key stakeholders and outline the responses received to the options developed as part of that stakeholder liaison.
A total of 756 responses were received from the public and organisations during the consultation period, which closed on 27 August 2021. The appraisal of options is ongoing, with the consultation responses informing our understanding of the views, opinions and priorities of those using this part of the A9 regularly.
Consultation on Munlochy junction opens
Following the publication of the 'Case for Change' study referred to below and meetings with interested parties, Transport Scotland has now opened a public consultation as the next stage in the lengthy process of appraisals which might eventually lead to sonething being done to address concerns about safety at the junction.
The consultation is open until 27 August.
Safety concerns at Munlochy Junction - study report published
Concern has been expressed in recent months about hazards and the potential for serious accidents at the junction between the A9 dual carriageway and the B9161 road to Munlochy, usually referred to as 'the Munlochy junction'. Consultation took place last year between Transport Scotland officials and representatives of local 'stakeholder' organisations including Police Scotland, Bear Scotland, MSPs, Highland Council, Highland and Community councillors etc.
What is called a 'Case for Change' study has now been carried out by consultants for Transport Scotland, and a 284 page report published which concludes nothing except that there is a case for change, and presents a 'long list' of 40 options ranging from painting the kerbs at the junction with fluorescent paint to creating a completely new road from some point along the B9161 to the North Kessock junction.
Don't expect action any time soon. Under 'Conclusions and next steps' the report states
'This Initial Appraisal: Case for Change report has set out the context for the appraisal of the A9 section between the North Kessock junction and the Tore Roundabout and the intermediate junctions.'
What happens next?
'If the study proceeds beyond the Case for Change, the next stage would be the preliminary appraisal.'
'Following the Preliminary Appraisal, if funding is available, a more detailed appraisal may be carried out . .'
And after all that, and with who knows how many hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in the consultants' pockets, perhaps in four or five years time we'll get the kerbs at the junction painted with fluorescent paint.
The names of the representatives of the 'stakeholder' organisations who took part in the consultation have been redacted. (Appendix J).
There are some interesting photographs in Appendix I.
'Conclusions and Next Steps' extract from report
Cost of 'Case for Change' study revealed
In response to a Freedom of Information request to Transport Scotland we have learned that the fee paid to WSP Consultants for carrying out the 'Case for Change' study reported on below was £48,646.68.
However, the situation with regard to the FoI request is not quite straightforward. The original response stated that as the information we were requesting was environmental information, Transport Scotland proposed to use an exemption at section 39 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 to enable them to respond to our request under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 instead of under the FOISA. The information requested (the consultants' fee), was then declared to be exempt information under section 10(5)(e) of the EIRs on the grounds that 'disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the confidentiality of commercial information provided by WSP and thus cause substantial harm to their commercial interests.'
We were given the option to request a review of this decision, and challenged it on the grounds that the information we were requesting was not environmental information in terms of the official definition, and that our request should therefore be considered under the FOISA and not under the EIRs. In a revised response Transport Scotland have agreed that that is the correct procedure, and as, surprisingly, the consultants' fee does not appear to be exempt information under the FOISA, the amount of the fee has been revealed.
The whole performance could be summarised as a rather underhand attempt to avoid providing information on the spending of public money which the public are surely entitled to know.
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