Transport Minister Graeme Dey has said a new blueprint for dualling the A9 will ensure the £3 billion project is completed “efficiently and within budget”.
He made the vow in a letter to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, who had asked for an update after being contacted by her Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituents.
Concerns have been raised recently about the Scottish Government’s commitment to the long-awaited dualling work between Inverness and Perth since Transport Scotland said it would “take stock” of the impact of the pandemic and look at its financing.
The move includes a new procurement strategy, which was due to be unveiled this summer, but is now not likely to be made public until at least September, after the Holyrood recess period.
Fears have also expressed that the project could be thrown into doubt as a result of power-sharing talks between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, who are long-standing opponents of new road-building initiatives.
But in a letter to his SNP colleague on June 9, which has been released under freedom of information laws, Mr Dey said the government continued to support the dualling work, and that it believed the programme would be delivered within its budget.
The Angus South MSP, who was appointed transport minister after the election in May, did not mention the pervious 2025 target date for completing the scheme, however.
We are committed to securing a strong delivery model which delivers the A9 Dualling Programme efficiently and within budget.”
Mr Dey said: “We are committed to securing a strong delivery model which delivers the A9 Dualling Programme efficiently and within budget, and in this regard Transport Scotland is currently preparing a procurement strategy that will allow the remaining sections to progress.
“Transport Scotland anticipates being able to provide an update on next steps towards delivery of this important programme later this summer.
“This ambitious programme will bring many benefits for road users, communities and businesses who live along or use this vital route to the Highlands and Islands.”
The first of 11 sections of A9 dualling, between Kincraig and Dalraddy, opened in 2017, with work on the second part between Luncarty and Pass of Birnam expected to be completed in winter this year.
The procurement process has begun for a further six miles of dual carriageway, from Tomatin to Moy, worth £115m, with a contract likely to be awarded in the second half of 2022.
Mr Dey said in his letter that design work was also “progressing well with the statutory process well underway for seven of the remaining eight schemes”.
A preferred option for the remaining stretch, between Pass of Birnam and Tay Crossing, is likely to be announced later this year.