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Residents and businesses in Lochaber may well have to endure further years of traffic chaos and congestion along the A82 in and out of Fort William before any solution is found.
That was the fear of Stewart MacLean, chairman of the A82 Partnership, this week following news that MSP Kate Forbes had written to Scottish Transport Minister Michael Matheson about the situation.
With closures of sections of the trunk road due to roadworks and accidents running at an average of one every three days, many believe this is costing the economy anything from £50,000 to £100,000 each time.
The latest problem was last week’s five-mile tailbacks of southbound vehicles on the A82 between Nevis Range and Fort William on Thursday and Friday.
The weekend’s mountain bike world cup event at Nevis Range was estimated to have doubled the 10,500 population of Fort William, exacerbating traffic problems.
With drivers taking 90 minutes to make the short journey, Ms Forbes says her email inbox has been jammed with inquiries as to why there is still no solution in place to the ever-worsening traffic problems.
She has now called for Mr Matheson to lend his urgent support to tackle the problem.
‘We’ve previously discussed congestion on the A82 through Fort William. Every year, the people of Fort William are subjected to two months of congestion because of the traffic build-up due to tourists going south,’ Ms Forbes told Mr Matheson.
‘Last week, the traffic was backed up to Nevis Range – that is a five-mile queue – and took about 90 minutes for traffic to get through the town centre. The story has been in the media and my inbox is full of questions about why there isn’t a solution yet.
‘Please could Transport Scotland and Police Scotland between them respond to these crises and see if there is a way to mitigate the most extreme cases of congestion – even getting the police to direct traffic at peak times because the build-up is only southbound.
‘It’s not just a question of frustration for commuters because there is literally no alternative route for the emergency services, never mind carers or doctors doing calls.
‘I’d be very grateful if you could offer urgent support as this problem is as pressing as ever and I’m very sympathetic to all those who are daily caught up in this.’
Bids have been made for a bypass for Fort William to be included in the new Strategic Transport Projects Review looking at Scotland’s transport infrastructure priorities for the next 20 years.
But Mr MacLean is worried a solution seems as far away as ever with work on the next Strategic Transport Projects Review still to be completed.
‘The people of Fort William and Lochaber may have to live with this situation and the major negative impact it is having on our economy for the next few years, until Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government truly realise the priority of the A82 for the West Highlands and islands,’ Mr MacLean told us.
‘Short-term fixes have been tried and failed – there are no short-term fixes. I am getting the that feeling within Transport Scotland the A82 is not a huge priority.’