Transport Scotland headquarters sent out a lot of confusing messages over the last few months, following their review of speed limits along the A82. First of all, they recommended reducing the limit to 50mph from the Ballachulish Bridge roundabout through to the Onich Hotel. Then they decided their traffic data didn’t support this reduction, so they would leave it at 60mph. Now having looked at the figures again they are recommending 50mph again, but from the end of the Ballachulish Bridge as the A82 enters North Ballachulish.
There is widespread support for a reduced speed limit amongst residents living in Onich and North Ballachulish, and a disappointment that the limit isn’t being reduced further to 40mph. The Scottish Government is spending money on extending the National Cycle Network through Nether Lochaber. Unfortunately, this won’t be an off-road section, instead running alongside the trunk road on the existing pavement. Yet, in many places there is no opportunity to widen the pavement, which will mean cyclists will remain perilously close to traffic, some of it heavy goods vehicles, travelling at 50mph. A stated of aim this cycle path is to link communities and encourage local people to use their bicycle on a daily basis – for example children cycling to school. However, few parents would allow their children to cycle to school alongside a road where lorries will still thunder past at 50mph. Yet, Transport Scotland doesn’t seem to include the proposed cycleway in their review of speed limits. That’s why the local community council continues to campaign for a 40mph speed limit from the Ballachulish Bridge to the Corran Ferry junction. I support them in that campaign and have written to Transport Scotland asking them to reconsider.
Interestingly, Lochaber councillors discussed this issue recently, but couldn’t agree on a formal response to Transport Scotland. Unfortunately, some want the limit to remain at 60mph and that the road must be brought up to a standard where this speed limit can be easily and safely accommodated. They say widening of the carriageway, further use of skid-resistance materials, improved surfacing and treatment of sight-lines must all be carried out. They are concerned that if a 50mph is imposed that no such improvements will be made and this is not acceptable under any circumstances. I agree all those improvements should be carried out, but even if those were all agreed today it could be many years before any upgrade work is completed. We shouldn’t use the campaign for road improvements as an excuse not to reduce limits to a safer level now. We should be arguing for both.