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Traffic congestion during most summers in and around Fort William is a major problem – Covid lockdown years aside – but this week saw many residents commenting on what seemed like total gridlock on roads around the town.
On Tuesday, long tailbacks of cars, motorhomes, buses and lorries saw the A82 as far as Inverlochy Castle Hotel and the A830 out to beyond Neptune’s Staircase crawling along.
One unhappy motorist told the Lochaber Times on Tuesday: ‘It took me 45 minutes to get from Inverlochy Castle Hotel turn-off to Ben Nevis Distillery. There were massive queues of vehicles.’
Highland councillor Angus MacDonald, Lib Dem, Fort William and Ardnamurchan, said while it was great to see overseas visitors returning in such numbers after the last few years of the Covid pandemic, it demonstrated again the dire situation with local roads.
‘June was surprisingly quite, I felt, when it came to visitor numbers but July has been extraordinary,’ he told the Lochaber Times.
‘The traffic on the A82 out to Inverlochy Castle Hotel has been particularly heavy and there are plenty reports of cars parking on verges all over the place.
‘So while it is fantastic to see so many overseas visitors – there are lots from continental Europe with many saying how nice it is to be somewhere so green and with cooler temperatures than their own home countries have endured recently – the problems with traffic congestion has highlighted the roads network round Fort William is no longer fit for purpose.’
Other issues concerning councillor MacDonald include fuel duty and his party, the Lib Dems, has called for a doubling of the rural fuel duty relief scheme to help families bearing the brunt of record petrol prices.
Analysis of official figures by the party reveals households in rural areas pay £114 a week on transport costs, almost £40 more than those in urban areas. It means rural households are shelling out almost £2,000 more a year on transport than those in urban areas.
West Highland Lib Dems want to see rural fuel duty relief doubled to ten pence a litre and for it to be significantly expanded to cover other rural areas including Lochaber and Argyll.
In addition, West Highland Lib Dems are calling for an emergency cut to VAT on fuel from 20 per cent to 17.5 per cent. Combined, these measures would save a typical driver in rural areas £7.60 each time they fill up their car, or almost £200 a year for those who fill up their car twice a month.
Councillor MacDonald commented: ‘Many local people are dependent on their cars to get to work, access medical care or get their children to school.
‘Thanks to SNP ministers in Edinburgh, our train services have been cancelled and local bus services run down so there are fewer alternatives than ever for people in the West Highlands.
‘People in rural communities like ours are bearing the brunt of devastating fuel price hikes, yet the UK government is refusing to lift a finger to help.’
North Road heading into Fort William on Tuesday this week. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos
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EXTRA pic: Lib Dem Angus MacDonald is one of four councillors representing Fort William and Ardnamurchan ward on Highland Council. NO-F17-Angus-MacDonald