A report going to next week’s meeting of The Highland Council will ask members to approve £10,000 to go towards the design of an improved road alignment for a notorious stretch of the A9 trunk road known as the Berridale Braes. The proposal is to remove the north hairpin by realigning the existing road within the corridor between the cemetery and the coastal cliff.
Managed and maintained by Transport Scotland, the road is of strategic importance to the North Highlands and the Council has been working closely with Transport Scotland, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), HITRANS and the Caithness Transport Forum to look at ways of improving the steep gradient and hairpin bends which makes it a particularly difficult route for large vehicles.
The cost of completing the detailed design is estimated at £220k, and this will be jointly funded by Transport Scotland, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, HITRANS and the Council.
Once the detailed design is completed the scheme will be ready to go out to tender, or “shovel ready”, and while the funding for construction, estimated at £2.3 million, has still to be identified, the project will be in a good position to take advantage of slippage from other projects.
If approved, the £10,000 contribution will come from the Council’s balances.
Chairman of The Highland Council’s TEC Services Committee, Councillor Graham Phillips said: “In the 1950s my late father-in-law was nearly pushed over the edge by a runaway lorry on Berriedale Braes. In the winter of 2010 I had to act swiftly to avoid a similar situation at the same spot. This road is not fit for purpose in the 21st century. At a time when we are straining every sinew to rebuild the economy of Caithness and Sutherland, I'm delighted to be making an important step in delivering this project."
Andy Anderson, Transport Scotland's route manager for the A9 at Berriedale Braes, added: "This improvement scheme presents a significant engineering challenge given the unique aspects of the topography around the Braes. We are working closely with our partners to develop the necessary design work which will ensure improvements to this strategic route through the Highlands are progressed."
Anna MacConnell, Socio Economic Manager for the NDA, said: “We have worked very closely with partners to bring the funding package together and it is a big step forward towards achieving realignment of the A9 at Berriedale. Caithness Transport Forum must be commended for its tenacity and diplomacy in making sure investment in transport is a high priority so that Caithness continues to be a great place in which to live, work and invest.”
John Green, Chair of the Caithness Transport Forum said: “This very significant improvement to Berriedale Braes is the top priority in the 2009 Caithness Transport Vision and is also the Local Authority’s top transport priority. A partnership approach across the agencies has been extremely effective in progressing the solution to this identified ‘pinch point’ to the economic development of the north. The Caithness Transport Forum now looks forward to the scheme reaching detailed design status, and future construction works”.