The cost of a three mile Perthshire section of the A9 dualling project could soar by up to £200 million if a controversial route is chosen.
The figure was revealed by a Freedom of Information request made by Atholl Estates which asked about the comparative costs of the alternative proposals for the stretch of the road between Dowally and Ballinluig.
Campaigners opposed to taking the route away from the A9 have seized on the figure and say to choose this option would be “utterly inexcusable”.
It was in the face of opposition to the original dualling route alongside the existing road that Transport Scotland came up with the alternative “offline” plan but this in turn caused a storm of protest from other people who would be impacted by this choice.
No decision has yet been made and both the routes remain on the table.
The No to A9 Offline Campaign say that if costs rose by £200m, the 3.2 miles would cost more that £380m, 10% of the total £3billion A9 dualling project budget.
Farmer Alexander Brewster of Rotmell Farm, said of the offline route: “The clachans of Dowally, Guay and Kindallachan sit in three, extremely scenic, natural gorges – the offline route would require the construction of flyovers to cross each of them
“The route would pass within metres of the rear properties in the settlements and would have a devastating impact on two farms, including my own, a market garden, numerous tourism enterprises, areas of outstanding natural beauty, as well as ancient woodland and wildlife habitats.
“The route is completely ludicrous – it’s not like it bypasses our settlements – it just changes the individuals who are affected.
“Not only that but now our FOI request indicates a huge increase to the budget which would be utterly inexcusable.”
Project slippage is also causing concern in the community, with fears that a decision on the Dowally to Ballinluig route won’t be made until the end of the year.
Goldsmith Craig Stuart, a local resident, said: “What I don’t understand is why the offline option is still in play given its huge cost and lack of support in our community.
“Transport Scotland has confirmed that there are ‘no insurmountable difficulties’ with the online route so we just can’t fathom why the offline scheme is still being considered.
“As a community, we’ve been living on tenterhooks all summer – the uncertainty has been chronically stressful.”
MSP Murdo Fraser who is keen to see the matter resolved said: “A fully dualled road is a necessity for Perth and Kinross and the Scottish Government must come up with a dualling solution that works for everyone involved.
“Moving the carriageway offline between Dowally and Ballinluig is not only hugely controversial but will come at significant financial cost. However, there are also local residents who will be adversely impacted by the online route, and their views need to be considered too.
“I would encourage the Scottish Government to communicate clearly with concerned residents about the factors they will take into account on reaching a decision.
“Delays in making a decision have the potential to drag the project off course and the last thing motorists want is a slip in the projected completion date.
“Interruptions early on in the construction phase can impact the project later on, as was seen with the new Forth Road Bridge, and the Scottish Government must now assure motorists that 2025 still remains the projected completion date for the A9.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The design and assessment work for the eastern offline option is ongoing and once this has been completed a decision will be taken on whether this option will be taken forward for further consideration.
“In addition to developing the eastern offline option, we are continuing to develop and assess the options to upgrade the A9 on its existing line.
“No preferred route decision has been taken and we continue to progress design work on all options and consult with local residents and the communities.”