I could not agree more with John Lamont MSP about the shocking omission of the A68 and A7 from the Holyrood government’s structure plan.
The A68, in particular, is a disgrace. A once smooth highway has been turned into a continuous rumble strip from Carter Bar to the Dalkeith bypass.
Whenever Transport Scotland makes an improvement, it usually makes things worse. Take, for example, the stretch north of Soutra past Fala village to the Tynehead junction. This was resurfaced last year at a cost literally of millions with a material called Gripfibre. Not only does it cause even more road noise than the primitively coarse and patched tarmac used elsewhere on the A68, it also gathers water and causes tramlining because it has a rivuleted texture.
When I wrote to BEAR (which looks after the roads) and Traffic Scotland about this scunner, I was told that a) it was quieter than asphalt and b) it would last longer. Neither of these claims were true.
The Gripfibre coating soon peeled off. It was replaced on the Fala stretch with another Gripfibre coating (talk about throwing good money after bad) while the stretch north of Pathhead has been allowed to break up.
The SNP government has allocated £1billion for cyclepaths and £1billion for low-carbon buses and taxis, yet it cannot find anything for the Borders. Oxton residents have been waiting for years for the junction on to the A68 to be modernised, yet £60million has already been spent on the Galashiels-Edinburgh tourist railway.
It is not as if BEAR cannot do a good job. The new surface dressing through Pathhead is excellent, but it is about the only smooth stretch on the entire highway. Perhaps it has become aware that there is an EU obligation on highway authorities to reduce traffic noise, which means that new surface dressings should be chosen with regard to their auditory performance, ie they must minimise tyre roar.
If we assume the cost of resurfacing a trunk road with smooth asphalt at less than £250,000 per mile (although some authorities for instance Hampshire Council, quote as low a figure as £150,000 per mile) then the £60million spent on the Borders touristway (for no visible result) would allow resurfacing the entire length of the A68 from Dalkeith not just to Carter Bar but on to Darlington!
John Lamont is to be congratulated. I hope our other elected representatives will join him in calling for the A68 and A7 to be brought up to modern standards.
Despite the recent improvements made to the notorious ‘accident blackspot’ junction from the Borders General Hospital (BGH) on to the A6091; whereby all exiting traffic must now turn left – and this is clearly marked - why do motorists continue to turn right in front of oncoming traffic?
I travel on this road most days and continue to see cars emerging from this junction cutting, out in front of me and other drivers. This necessitates either braking sharply or pulling out to overtake the slow car to avoid a collision; neither of these are safe manoeuvres at the best of times and more so in inclement weather conditions.
I witnessed an incident on Monday December 5 when a Fiat Punto turned right on to the A6091, in front of oncoming traffic, and another accident was narrowly avoided.
I predict that accidents at this junction will continue, until motorists emerging from the BGH drive with more consideration and give way to the traffic negotiating the A6091.
I note that over Christmas Scottish Borders Council intends to retain the existing situation with the traffic lights at Island Street, Bridge Place and HighStreet in Galashiels.
It seems that the council is considering only road traffic – those of us who have to cross the road to get to the doctors’ or dentists’ surgeries in Roxburgh Street are at a huge disadvantage.
Has a risk assessment been undertaken on behalf of pedestrians? I very much doubt it. I would like to know if one has been done, and if not, why not?
K. R. Frame
High Street, Galashiels