Breaking New Ground: Planning the A9 Dualling Programme - Scotland's Longest Rural Trunk Road

Breaking New Ground: Planning the A9 Dualling Programme - Scotland's Longest Rural Trunk Road


Judith MacDonald, Transport Scotland, Yvette Sheppard, Transport Scotland, Jo Blewett, Transport Scotland


This paper discusses the innovative approach in planning for the A9 Dualling Programme, within the Cairngorms National Park. In producing the Economic Case for the Programme, assessment methodologies beyond standard appraisal have been developed.


This paper will discuss the innovative approach taken to planning for the largest infrastructure project by cost in Scotland’s history, the A9 Dualling Programme. The Programme aims to dual 129 km by 2025. The analysis focuses on the economic and environmental factors affecting rural communities and environments. In producing the Economic Case for investing in the A9 and assessing the economic impact of construction, Transport Scotland has developed innovative methodologies, which are beyond standard appraisal.

The A9 passes through areas which are outstanding in wildlife and landscape terms, with much of the route passing through the Cairngorms National Park. The road also intersects a significant number of sites protected at a national and international level for habitats and species and is in proximity to valuable, protected heritage assets. In planning for the project it has been necessary to assess the economic need to improve road connections for rural communities and enhance connections to cities whilst also ensuring that the needs of this environmentally sensitive area are properly understood and given due consideration throughout the development process.

The A9 is the major trunk road connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow with the Highlands of Scotland. The A9 is regarded by many as the spine of the Scottish road network providing a vital strategic link in Scotland, carrying over 40,000 vehicles per day (over 65,000 people) along the Perth to Inverness section. The A9 plays an important role in the economy of Scotland with a higher than average rate of business trips, a high proportion of tourists and a substantial volume of goods transported with an estimated value of £19 billion annually.

The ability of standard appraisal methodologies to adequately assess the economic benefits of dualling rural trunk roads was thought to be inadequate. Transport Scotland commissioned consultants TRL and AECOM to undertake experimental research and stated preference studies to understand which variables are significant in causing driver frustration and quantified the value of this frustration to using microsimulation modelling to assign economic benefits. The latest research has confirmed earlier research that speed, platoon length, proportion of HGVs in a platoon and the presence of oncoming traffic affect intention to overtake but the results of studies show that the extent of driver frustration and intention to overtake are almost always dependent on the context and role of other variables. Transport Scotland has applied the driver frustration research to the A9 Dualling Programme economic case and is proceeding with developing this assessment methodology to allow the quantification of connecting rural areas by road.

Land-use modelling was undertaken using to predict the wider economic effects of dualling the A9 and this was supplemented by a series of business surveys. The approach shows which regions will gain and which regions will lose from the investment. The construction period for the A9 is between 2015 and 2025. A new methodology using Scotland’s strategic transport model has been developed to assess the journey time impacts and the economic impact of the construction period.

From the inception of the Programme, Transport Scotland has integrated environmental considerations into planning and development. Working closely with key environmental stakeholders, it sought to integrate the statutory Strategic Environmental Assessment process with the parallel Engineering and Economic assessments and to focus the process on generating outputs which not only ensure that the criteria critical to delivering a Programme which meets the varied needs of this environmentally sensitive area is understood but also to provide a framework to ensure that we can deliver a consistent approach to the consideration and management of environmental aspects throughout the life of the Programme, irrespective of how the individual projects are designed and delivered.

Goal of the paper

The paper mainly presents findings from extensive and innovative work undertaken in planning and developing the largest infrastructure project by cost in Scotland’s history. The assessment has developed and tested new methodologies in relation to assessing the economic impacts of rural road schemes. The paper also demonstrates how to integrate environmental considerations in environmentally sensitive areas into planning and development of a major trunk road Programme. The paper will draw conclusions on the transferability of the findings to other rural road schemes which is likely to be of international interest.


Association for European Transport