When I was fighting my first election campaign, a dreadful accident happened in what would become my constituency of North Tayside. Three generations of Israeli tourists were killed in their car at the Ballinluig junction after becoming confused trying to navigate the dangerous A9. I then made it my mission that I would do all I could to make this road safe. Since then, we have improved the Ballinluig junction and the A9 is to be dualled from Perth to Inverness.
But these projects take time, as communities are properly consulted and all the necessary engineering works are conducted. In the meantime, this road continued to take lives. That’s why it was decided that more needed to be done right now.
The Scottish Government looked at the example of average speed cameras and the impressive impact that they had on changing driver behaviour, not just in Scotland, but across Europe. A trial was then approved that would enforce the existing speed limit of 60MPH on single carriageway and 70MPH on dual carriageway, but also raise the speed limit for HGVs to 50MPH to reduce the speed differentials between cars and the many heavy vehicles that use this road.
The success of this measure has been overwhelming. Speeding is down and speed-related accidents have been more or less eliminated. More than that, the experience for the travelling public has been massively improved. On the A9, there is no more fretfully looking in the rear-view mirror wondering when the next car travelling at 85MPH might be coming your way whilst overtaking a convoy of lorries. The road has been simply transformed.
Not everyone agrees though. I share an almost equal length of the A9 with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Inverness MP, Danny Alexander. He has been campaigning hard to have these cameras taken down. He has been watching the polls with great anxiety and thought that a lazy populist campaign on the cameras might address his dire electoral prospects. When the safety statistics came through, I asked him to stop his reckless campaign and he refused. We, therefore, have a UK Secretary of State campaigning to put the people of Perthshire at risk once again and wanting the right for motorists to speed unhampered.
The cameras might not solve all the issues on the A9, but they have made people feel more safe and secure. I will never forget the sickening feeling when the news of that family came through that day 15 years ago and that is why I will support any measure that helps make such accidents on the A9 a thing of the past.
– This is Pete’s article from the Perthshire Advertiser, Friday 6th February 2015