Highlands and Islands Greens have called on Audit Scotland to investigate The Highland Councilʼs proposal for an ‘Inverness West Link Road’, on the grounds that this proposed multi-million pound investment offers very little value-for-money.
“Our concern is that this proposed multi-million pound investment  offers very little value-for-money”, said Anne Thomas, Secretary of the Highlands and Islands Green Party.
“Such expenditure would have significant implications for more cost-effective funding for other, ideally greener capital projects, including a proper city-wide cycle network, that would be unavailable.
“Our views are based on Transport Scotlandʼs assessment , who consider that the projectʼs “High capital costs and relatively low benefits represent poor value for money”.
“And Highland Councilʼs own figures  suggest that the crossing would have little effect on traffic congestion in town. Perhaps only around 1 in 5 vehicles currently using the A82 along both Kenneth St and Glenurquhart Road in Inverness would use the crossing.
“Highland Council also cite a demand for housing in the area as a ‘driver’ for the project. Yet little demand for housing was expressed in the public charette organised by the Council to consider the project. There are some immediate housing needs in the area but there are also areas already under development. Furthermore, the Councilʼs stated need for housing is based on an 18% growth in population. But last year the population of Highland grew by just 0·3% .
“And despite its green rhetoric, The Highland Council only spends £5 per person a year on cycling infrastructure, which is 1·8% of its transport budget, yet it is planning on spending about £144 per person on this link road.
“One of the reasons for Spain’s massive debt is huge spending on unnecessary roads which are now virtually empty. We are in danger of doing the same. With oil prices rising as oil becomes harder to reach and demand rises, more people are taking to their bikes. Scotland has a target of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020. If this happens there will be even less need for the link road.
“We have therefore invited Audit Scotland to initiate an urgent investigation into The Highland Councilʼs proposals.
1. Costs: The Councilʼs stated (on 27 June 2012) that the estimated cost for this project was £27·2 million – and which we now understand may rise by a further £5 million for moving the golf and rugby clubs’ facilities.
2. Transport Scotland perspective: Transport Scotland clearly perceive little monetary value in the project. They say: “The most technically challenging aspect of this [the proposed A96/A9/A82 link] proposal is the crossing of the River Ness and Caledonian Canal which is likely to have a potential major adverse impact on cultural heritage, soils and geology. High capital costs and relatively low benefits represent poor value for money.”  (our emphasis)
3. Likely (low) demand: The Highland Councilʼs data reflects the likely low demand for a crossing. Fig. 2.4 on page 20 of The Highland Councilʼs ‘Local Transport Strategy’ records a volume of around 10,000 vehicles per day over the period 2000-2010 using both Kenneth St and Glenurquhart Road in Inverness (see www.highland.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/8CAD2313-0542-448E-9087-EA473E5CDE6A/0/highlandlocaltransportstrategydraftdoc.pdf).
At a public meeting in January 2010, arranged to discuss the crossing issue and chaired by Danny Alexander MP, the audience were informed that ‘through traffic’ comprised only around 30% of traffic on the A82. Assuming that two-thirds of this might be from the (or heading) North or East, and would therefore be likely to use the distributor road, this implies that about 2,000 vehicles would use a canal/river crossing per day, or (on average) 83 per hour – which isnʼt very many!
5. See page 1 of Annex 3 of Transport Scotlandʼs strategic transport project review: www.transportscotland.gov.uk/files/documents/reports/j10194a/j10194a-a3E6.pdf This assessment also records the Transport Scotlandʼs reportʼs overall view of not recommending the approval of the (wider) A96/A9/A82 link.