A significant pinch point on the A82 trunk road between Glasgow and Inverness is the section from Fort William’s West End roundabout through to the Lochybridge roundabout. Assuming the development around the planned Tesco at Blar Mhor goes ahead, this is likely to increase as people are tempted to the north side of town for their weekly shop.
Plans for a link road, between the An Aird roundabout and the A830 at Caol, have been kicking around for many years, but have never gone anywhere. The route is even protected within the local plan to allow construction at some future date. However, there has never been any money to build it. Complicated rules mean that the Highland Council would have to stump up the cash, rather than the Scottish Government, and it clearly hasn’t been a priority for the powers that be in Inverness. It didn’t even make it into the new council’s programme for the next five years after they were elected – something I pointed out in one of my first contributions in the council chamber as a new councillor. After considerable lobbying from Lochaber councillors, especially Brian Murphy, it made it onto the capital programme – the list of things the council is going to build over the next ten years. But hang on a minute there’s no money for it, something the report admitted.
It’s another example of something the residents of Lochaber desperately need, but the only way to achieve it is by getting the Scottish Government on our side to provide the funding. Not only would it be good for Fort William and Lochaber, but it would improve transport links across the West Coast. You would expect the council to be taking every opportunity to raise it with those holding the purse strings in Holyrood – government ministers – almost harrying them in to submission. When I asked our transport chief, Councillor Graham Phillips, what issues he has raised during meetings with government ministers over the last six months, the need for a Fort William-Caol Link Road wasn’t on the list. Neither was it on the list of the Leader of the Council, nor the Chairman of the Resources Committee, who would have to find the money in the council coffers if we were to build it. It didn’t seem to feature on the radar of the Chairman of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee either. You would think a link road would be of high importance for developing our local economy and improving infrastructure. So I followed up my original question to ask when the last time Graham Phillips had raised this issue. He fobbed me off by saying it is discussed at quarterly meetings with Transport Scotland. I remain unconvinced we will be any further forward with this road, whilst the council remains obsessed with the West Link road in Inverness.