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Is dualling the A9 really that bad?

(518 posts)
  • Started 9 years ago by Wilmington's Cow
  • Latest reply from chdot

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  1. I've been thinking a bit about this recently, seeing some of the arguments for and against, and it's really not a black and white issue.

    I should say that I think the cost of it could be spent much much better elsewhere. But. We put ghost bikes up because 9 cyclists have died on Scotland's roads so far this year - in 2010 on the A9 I think 13 motorists and motorcyclists died. Now is it 'possible' that dual carriageway all the way would actually have prevented many of those deaths?

    It's suggested that speed plays a factor in the deaths, but more likely, is inappropriate overtaking. Clearly targeting this poor driving so that it doesn't happen would be the most cost effective action, but practically how can it be done? (yes, enforcement, but how do you catch the people doing it in the first place without having police cars every 5 miles?) Whereas, if there is dual carriageway... There's no overtaking that involves crossing to the other side of the road. That's a simple fact. Yes, people might go faster, but you've removed one potential cause of conflict immediately.

    It's kind of like us asking for segregated facilities, it's removing a potential source of conflict, so dual carriageways do that for single carriageways. Certainly at present the little sections of dual carriageway 'encourage' people to get past before it ends the number of ridiculous overtakes I've suffered while driving that road is legion) and yes yes yes yes I do agree that stamping out bad behaviour is much more preferable to having to spend loads of cash on infrastructure. But again, as a simple statement, would dual carriageway all the way lead to fewer deaths? And if the answer is yes, does that make dualling the road a good thing? I guess what value is a life?

    I have heard as well that money should be spent on the rail link instead, which I'd agree with, thoguh for some different reasons - it's been suggested that dualling will lead to small towns being bypassed, but they already are for the most part anyway, and people still drive in, and if the final destination is Inverness (or further, I'm usually going to Ullapool) then on the train they'll sit till that destination, whereas driving they may (should) want to take a break and will therefore stop in one of these small towns.

    I guess one benefit would be if more freight could be carried on a better rail network so there are fewer lorries on the road.

    This is all a bit rambling. Really in short I think that dualling will save lives; that if we could change behaviour that would be better (certainly in the long run as it will be reflected elsewhere than just on the A9); that's it's costing a ridiculous amount of money; and that many people both pro and anti get a little blinded to the shades of grey.

    Erm.

    Discuss.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  2. crowriver
    Member

    Ach, away with your Devil's Advocate provocations, WC. Away, Go on. Careful now.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  3. See, I wondered if it was Devil's Advocate, but genuinely, would dualling the A9 save lives?

    Posted 9 years ago #
  4. kaputnik
    Moderator

    The Free Church are wading in too;

    http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/transport/upgrade-of-a9-a-priority-over-trams-says-churchman-1-3010975

    I'm assuming the logic of the "dualling = no more deaths" is that people don't die on crashes on dual carriageways and Motorways. They do, unfortunately.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  5. Well they do, yes, but would 'as many' die? (looking at the possible causes of A9 crashes just now, and the types of crashes that occur on dual carriageways, and whether those would be more or less prevalent than the current crashes).

    Posted 9 years ago #
  6. AKen
    Member

    One of the problems with fully-dualling the A9 is that drivers will start to treat it as if it were a motorway. The A90 suffers from this problem - people drive at motorway speeds (i.e. 80-90-100mph) but don't seem prepared for slow traffic crossing the carriageway at right angles or using the road. There have been many accidents on the A90 caused by people hitting those turning right across the opposite carriageway. I arrived at one incident minutes after this had happened and a driver killed. It's also possible to come round a corner a speed and be confronted by the local bus in the outside lane overtaking a tractor. Dualling will help - but some people will then claim it won't be safe until it's been upgraded to motorway standard.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  7. wingpig
    Member

    My wife jurored on a road-smash case where the defendant's lame excuse was that he thought he was on the overtaking lane of a dualled bit of road when he drove head-first into the person he killed on a non-dualled bit.

    The more a road looks like a motorway the more people will treat it like one and the more they'll get all frustrated, the poor wee things, when they reach a bit which isn't dualled and they have to slow down. I'd consider that an argument for dualling nowt but the steepest uphill bits.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  8. Arellcat
    Moderator

    Are there lessons to be learned from the dualling—bits of it, anyway—of the A1? Accidents and incidents still occur on the S2 sections, as much from the exposed outlook as from poor driving. It might be worth comparing the KSI stats for the sections upgraded from S2 to D2 or D2M.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  9. Dave
    Member

    Dualling the A9 is a great idea, but so are thousands of other things.

    The question really boils down to whether we want to spend £3,000m doing it (anyone want to bet it can't be delivered for less than £5bn anyway?) instead of something else.

    That's a lot of wonga. It's enough to pay for 150 years of national cycle infrastructure investment at Dutch levels.

    How can we not oppose it and ask for the money to be spent on something better?

    Posted 9 years ago #
  10. Baldcyclist
    Member

    No (to original question).

    Posted 9 years ago #
  11. holisticglint
    Member

    A colleague pointed out that "dual carriageway" actually refers to the fact that there is a central reservation rather than the number of lanes so a money saving approach could be to slap a barrier down the middle and no more overtaking problem....

    I suspect that the A9 upgrade will result in a reduction in fatalities but it will not be nearly as effective as hoped because of all of the junctions onto what will then be a higher speed road unless they are upgraded to motorway status too.

    @Dave is right - there are better things to spend the money on (unless you drive from Inverness to Perth everyday)

    Posted 9 years ago #
  12. Baldcyclist
    Member

    "
    @Dave is right - there are better things to spend the money on (unless you drive from Inverness to Perth everyday)
    "
    That is one thing you *would* expect the Government to measure: 'How many people will benefit' from X, Y, or Z. I would guess this is one of the ways they attribute their spending to things, of course *we* may not agree with their reasoning...

    Posted 9 years ago #
  13. Dave
    Member

    The cynical amongst us might suggest that this is the SNP effectively buying votes, in the same way that removing the bridge tolls was.

    I suppose it's easy to identify "the SNP dualled the A9" as an election boon whereas investing in the nation's health and happiness is a bit more nebulous?

    Posted 9 years ago #
  14. slowcoach
    Member

    WC's 1st post mentioned number of people killed on A9 in 2010. From Crashmap.co.uk and news reports I think there were 15 people killed. 3 of these were on sections that are already dual-carriageway, and another 3 were single-vehicle collisions (1 hitting a pedestrian). One of other was killed by a speeding lorry driver who fell asleep and might well have crossed over any central reservation. So I'd guess that at least half the deaths on the A9 in 2010 would not have been prevented by dualling.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  15. Kim
    Member

    Well take a look at what has already happened, £15m was spent "improving" the Ballinluig Junction. Did this stop fatalities at this junction? No.

    All that dualing the A9 will achieve will be higher speeds when driving from Perth to Inverness. The quality of the driving will not improve by making the road a dual carriageway, nor will the fatalities drop significantly.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  16. "The quality of the driving will not improve by making the road a dual carriageway, nor will the fatalities drop significantly."

    So they will drop?

    Posted 9 years ago #
  17. chdot
    Admin

    "So they will drop?"

    Probably - on a per mile basis at least. 'Better' road will probably attract more traffic

    I don't suppose there are any details, but some people think that all junctions will have flyovers, but others assume not.

    Flyovers more expensive.

    The 'big' question on a forum like this is 'are x fewer deaths worth spending £y on?'

    The subsidiary question is 'if £y was spent on ped/cycle infrastructure/policies and/or preventative health initiatives (etc.) what would x be?'

    Anyone on here help with the answers?

    Posted 9 years ago #
  18. I guess if we were to bring deaths to zero then £100M would stop 9+ cyclist deaths a year; £3Bn required to stop c.15 deaths a year. The cycling money win out on an economic analysis.

    But it does seem the consensus that dualling the A9 (probably) would lead to fewer people dying? They might drive faster, and there will still be people who die (in different types of incident probably), but lives will be saved?

    Posted 9 years ago #
  19. cycletrain
    Member

    Kim, I think you'll find there has been no fatalities at Ballinluig Junction since it was upgraded.

    AKen, people currently drive up the A9 at motorway speeds, this probably wont change much unless there is more rigid enforcement. I only hope that all the junctions will be grade seperated to prevent right turn manouvres as exercised on the "other" part of the A9 at Auhterarder and Blackford.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  20. chdot
    Admin

    "but lives will be saved?"

    Well yes but.

    Lives would saved if cycling was illegal, mountaineering banned in winter, pavements made of rubber, all DIY activities had to be professionally risk assessed etc. etc.

    It's back to the word "balance" (as frequently used on the Leith Walk thread!)

    My simplistic view is that spending the sort of money 'intended' for the A9 is not '(best) value for money'.

    More important (perhaps) is that this particular project doesn't seem to be 'evidence based' - which SG says is key to its policies/actions.

    I could be wrong on one or both.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  21. Bhachgen
    Member

    Comparing figures on the number of fatalities "prevented" by spending £3000m on dualling the A9 against the same spend on cycle infrastructure would require the number of premature deaths avoided by the health benefits of additional cycle usage to be taken into account.

    Why not spend the money on improving the rail line and introducing a drive on - drive off high-speed motorrail service from Perth to Inverness? There's railway lines immediately adjacent to both Junctions 10 and 11 of the M90 at Perth and the A9/A96 roundabout at the other end. Stick a central reservation up all the non-dualled bits of the A9 and enforce the HGV speed limit properly.

    Bish, bash, and indeed, bosh.

    Step aside Keith Brown I think I'm the man for the job...

    Posted 9 years ago #
  22. lionfish
    Member

    The alternative would be to stick a 50mph speed limit on all the non-dual bits, and use average-speed cameras? There would be no point overtaking then, and so presumably the same number of lives saved as dualing (plus more as other collisions would have been averted or happened slower).

    I guess it means going 10mph slower for some of the 100miles, which would work out at up to 20 minutes extra journey time. I guess the real question then is, is £3B worth the time saving?

    Dubious maths: hmm, if 6M journeys on it a year, for 20 years->120M people, or 40M hours saved. £3B/40M->£75/hour-saved: I think the answer's no.

    Gut instinct: We really should be switching away from cars as much as possible, future investment should be in low-carbon options. Also it seems obscene to spend that sum when so many more important things need that money spending on them! (e.g. cycling, care-of-elderly, etc)

    Posted 9 years ago #
  23. cb
    Member

    Some quick Googling suggests that the current dualled section between Dunblane and Perth will be grade separated as will the two roundabouts on the 'Perth bypass'.

    I don't know what the plan is north of Perth but given that the newest bit of dualled section at Crubenmore includes an at grade junction it seems unlikely that every junction will be separated.

    There must be hundreds of minor road/track junctions although I guess a fair number of these will be swept up with parallel service roads (like the Ballinluig junction).

    Posted 9 years ago #
  24. chdot
    Admin

    Of course I would be naive just thinking of this as deaths saved per amount spent.

    There are other considerations - 'boost for construction industry', 'economic benefits of journey time saving', 'potential for increased tourism' etc.

    These are all political considerations. I'm using "political" in a 'civic' sense rather than as a term of abuse.

    It would be nice if all the reasonings and calculations could be laid out and lead to a proper debate.

    At present it seems like a large (potentially) expensive gesture that can't really be binding on future Governments.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  25. cb
    Member

    Some other potential downsides of dualling:

    - Faster traffic speed equals greater noise pollution.
    - The road becomes an even greater barrier to E<>W heading pedestrians/cyclists/riders (see fiasco with Crubenmore underpass)

    But I know that if/when it's dualled I will appriciate it when driving north. Mind you that only tends to be once or twice a year so I could live without it.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  26. neddie
    Member

    I believe that in [cold hearted] officialdom, the price of a life is approx £1m. So if 15 lives could be saved on the railways, they would be prepared spend £15m to avoid those deaths, but not say £30m.

    So, by those figures, you have £13m to spend on the A9 to eliminate fatalities. For that money I reckon you could get on the 'single carriageway' sections:

    • a 50mph speed limit
    • some enforcement cameras
    • and a central barrier down some sections

    Posted 9 years ago #
  27. Have to admit, I don't know why average speed cameras aren't used more widely.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  28. PS
    Member

    @WC Fear of motorist uproar, I suspect.

    It's always an eye-opener driving in France when you see how well-observed the speed limit on motorways is. It's higher than ours (130kph in the dry is approx 80mph), but it seems you can get a ticket for 1kph above that - none of our "10% leeway" crap. People therefore know what the limit is and drive to it.

    It's got me thinking that the "leeway" we get in the UK is everyone's get out clause for speeding. We know it isn't the real (ie, enforced) limit, so it's okay for the needle to nudge above it. However, everyone has a slightly different view of what is acceptably above - one person's 73mph is another's 85mph... People will argue that no-one's getting hurt by people doing 85mph on the motorway (99.9% of the time that's probably true), but that attitude filters down to the roads where people are more likely to be killed, hurt or intimidated in towns.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  29. Nelly
    Member

    @PS IMO its not that simple - and 80mph or more on a motorway may be perfectly safe, conditions and traffic dependent.

    The big problem is that,in town,people don't drive to the conditions / other road users needs and require us to implement 20mph zones etc

    Posted 9 years ago #
  30. Klaxon
    Member

    The cynic in me would say that Average Speed Cameras aren't used as they cost money to run - due to high compliance and no fines being issued. I suspect I'm not so wrong.

    Just back from France myself and kept cruise control on at 130kph, as indicated by sat nav as my dial markings are terrible. On the northern, quiet section from Calais to Dijon very little did I need to overtake (mostly just lorries or caravans) and very little was I overtaken. Lane discipline was also exceptional compared to here - I was very impressed.

    I would be concerned however at an enforcement threshold as little as 1kph - the margin of error reading an analogue dial should be taken as half a marking, or 2.5/5mph depending on your car.

    Posted 9 years ago #

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