Serious injury and death is not acceptable collateral damage

I was more than a little disappointed, though not surprised, by Transport Scotland’s response, on behalf of the transport minister, to Councillor Sandy Aitchison’s request for improvements to the A7 ( “Aitchison renews A7 minister invite”, Southern, November 22).

It would appear that life-saving road improvements are out of the question so long as Transport Scotland can obfuscate by putting its faith in the Borders railway to deliver massive savings on travel journeys along the A7 corridor in this region.

But let us dissect Transport Scotland’s claim that the “Borders railway [will] reduce trips made by car along the route of the railway corridor by approximately 530,000 annually” – more than 1,700 journeys fewer per day.

We know that around 6,000 cars per day pass by Fountainhall, as measured by the traffic survey for the Hazelbank quarry planning application, and if we could reduce the traffic along that section by almost 30 per cent that would, indeed, be a fantastic result that we could all celebrate.

But while that was clearly the impression Transport Scotland was trying to give, that isn’t what was actually claimed. In its statement, Transport Scotland is conflating the number of journeys made along the railway corridor with the journeys saved along the Borders section of the A7.

The vast majority of the journeys made on the Borders railway, and road journeys reduced, will come from the suburban conurbations of Midlothian – Gorebridge, Newtongrange and Eskbank. To imply that reducing journeys made in Midlothian somehow makes the A7 in the Borders safer is disingenuous at least and very possibly dangerously misleading.

The presence or otherwise of the Borders railway does not, and will not, mean that the dangerous condition and design of the A7 can be ignored. Drivers will continue to use the A7 for many decades to come – indeed, Network Rail’s spokesman said in another article that “it is unavoidable that there will be an increased number of articulated vehicles using the A7 to get to access points along the railway route” during the railway’s construction phase.

Until something is done to improve it, preventable accidents will continue to happen and road users will continue to be killed and seriously injured.

That may represent acceptable collateral damage to Holyrood and Transport Scotland, but it is certainly not acceptable to those of us who use the A7.

Gavin Whittaker

(Chair, Heriot Community Council)

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