A9 dualling at Insh Marshes

Tagged with: Open: Open Transport: Transport SAC: SAC SPA: SPA SSSI: SSSI
 Insh Marshes RSPB reserve, Loch Insh, 2000

Overview

Transport Scotland proposes to upgrade the A9 trunk road which passes through the RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes nature reserve and over the River Spey next to Kingussie in the Cairngorms National Park, to dual carriageway. Insh Marshes is a wetland of international importance providing home to a huge variety of wildlife. It is crucial that this area is protected and remains a special place for wildlife and people. Transport Scotland is currently designing the dualling proposals and we are trying to ensure that the design minimises damage to wildlife habitat, and that any unavoidable loss of habitat is offset by the provision or enhancement of similar habitat elsewhere.

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

Insh Marshes reserve is a National Nature Reserve and an internationally important floodplain and wetland next to Kingussie in the Cairngorms National Park. Insh Marshes is home to breeding waders and wildfowl, ospreys, otters, a huge range of plants and invertebrates (many of which are rare and threatened) and, each winter, over 100 whooper swans. Part of the site is protected under international and national law for these species and habitats. The existing A9 road crosses the River Spey here, which is also of international importance for its Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussel, sea lamprey and otter.

Thousands of people visit Insh Marshes each year, and it is an outdoor classroom for local school children to learn about their environment. It is crucial that Insh Marshes remains a special place for both wildlife and people well into the future.

How you can help

You can respond to the Transport Scotland consultation on the current proposals, by 16 May 2018. Key points to include are:

  • The proposed route and design of the road would harm the Insh Marshes National Nature Reserve and cause the loss of important wildlife habitat, including for several wader bird species.
  • The consultation information states they have considered the impacts on the nature reserve, but contains no detail on how this harm and habitat loss would be offset.
  • Transport Scotland should publish clear proposals for creating new areas of wildlife habitat and improving the value to wildlife of nearby land, to more than make up for the harm caused by the dualling.

The consultation information and current proposals can be seen here.

You can also write to express your concerns to Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, who has overall responsibility for the A9 dualling programme (Scottish.ministers@gov.scot). You could ask him how Transport Scotland will minimise harm to the environment, compensate for the damage caused to the special wildlife and habitats of Insh Marshes, and maximise the environmental benefits of the project.

If you live in Scotland, you can write to your regional and constituency MSPs expressing your concerns about the impacts on Insh Marshes (see here).

 We will keep this web page updated to let you know how you can best comment on the proposals and influence Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government. 

Snipe wading

Our position

Insh Marshes is an internationally important example of a near-natural floodplain with exceptional wildlife. Given the area's conservation importance, we have major concerns about the potential environmental harm that the dualling project through Insh Marshes could cause. 

We have had several meetings with Transport Scotland, their consultants and other public bodies including Scottish Natural Heritage and the Cairngorms National Park Authority to try to minimise negative impacts on the reserve, and maximise potential environmental benefits of the dualling project.

Transport Scotland considered several possible routes for the new dual carriageway, and all of the options presented cut across part of the Insh Marshes nature reserve, just as the existing A9 does. The geography and topography of the area means it is unrealistic to create a brand new route for the new dual carriageway that does not cross part of the reserve. So the dualling of this section of the A9 will inevitably cause some damage to the reserve. We believe that the most realistic and appropriate solution is to design the dual carriageway in a way that minimises such damage. This would involve widening to the immediate west of the existing single carriageway A9, and incorporating a bridge much longer than the existing bridge so that it forms a 'green and blue underpass' (similar to the 'green bridge' concept seen elsewhere). This option would affect less important wader habitat, reconnect floodplain habitats, have multiple benefits for the river and its wildlife, and reduce upstream flooding in Kingussie.

Despite the clear advantages of our suggestions, Transport Scotland have opted for a cheaper and easier option which is to have an 'offline' dualling route with a relatively short bridge and with the new carriageway east of the existing road, on a separate embankment. This will be constructed on existing wetland on the reserve and would result in the loss of important habitats for waders such as lapwings, oystercatchers, redshanks and snipe, and for wildfowl. The road construction will also cause loss of wetland plants such as ragged robin, greater butterfly orchid and marsh marigold; will fail to fully reconnect the floodplain and the river; and will fail to address the collision risk to wildlife, in particular otter, posed by the road. It will not deliver the same benefits for the river as a much longer bridge would; and will only partially address flooding problems.

We are proud of our longstanding close relationship with the local community of Kingussie regarding our management of Insh Marshes. This continues as we consider how the dualling can bring about benefits for both people and wildlife.

As the proposals move forward we will continue to make the case for protecting the exceptional wildlife of Insh Marshes, minimising harmful impacts, and maximising environmental benefits (such as enhancing or providing new habitat nearby) that the dualling project brings with it. We have identified several ways in which Transport Scotland could do this. These include creating new nesting 'islands' where the ground is currently too wet for ground nesting waders; reprofiling embankments to create a more natural landform and open landscape favoured by the waders; and the excavating of scrapes (shallow ponds with muddy edges) to provide extra feeding habitat. These measures would all create extra wildlife habitat, and study work we have commissioned shows that they would not cause flood risk issues off the reserve, in fact they are expected to reduce flood risk upstream of the bridge. These and other measures should be explored by Transport Scotland.

Timeline

  • 17 & 18 April 2018
    Transport Scotland host public exhibitions in Kingussie and Newtonmore and begin a public consultation on the design development of the proposed route, including the latest plans for the bridge across the River Spey. The deadline for comments is 16th May 2018.

  • May 2017
    We formally respond to the public consultation on the 'preferred route'. In our response we highlight our serious concerns regarding the option being taken forward, and encourage Transport Scotland to redesign the bridge so that it is as long as possible for environmental benefits. We also highlight the crucial need for Transport Scotland to minimise environmental harm and compensate for any unavoidable negative impacts – potentially by creating new, or enhancing, habitat nearby.

  • 8 & 9 March 2017
    Transport Scotland announces and consults the public on their chosen ‘preferred route’ for the section of dualling through Insh Marshes. This is an 'offline' dualling route with a relatively short bridge, and with a new southbound carriageway east of the existing road, on a separate embankment – on part of the Insh Marshes reserve which is particularly important for waders. We are very concerned that the preferred route shows a relatively short bridge, and make clear to Transport Scotland what impact this would have on Insh Marshes.

  • February 2016 - April 2018
    Ongoing discussion (including several meetings) between Transport Scotland and RSPB Scotland regarding the design and assessment of the dualling proposals.

  • January 2016
    RSPB Scotland responds to the route options public consultation. Our strong preference is that the existing bridge over the River Spey should be replaced by a much longer and open bridge, and that any road works should be to the northwest side of the existing road. We also highlight the many potential impacts on wildlife that Transport Scotland has to consider in designing the road works.

  • November 2015
    Transport Scotland begins a public consultation on route options for the Crubenmore to Kincraig section of A9 dualling. For the section of road that goes through Insh Marshes, the options presented include widening to the west or east of the existing road, or building a separate 'offline' southbound carriageway to the east of the existing road.

  • November 2015
    RSPB Scotland writes to Keith Brown (Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities) highlighting the importance of Insh Marshes, and the possibility of upgrading the road and providing improvements for wildlife.

  • 2012 - 2014
    Transport Scotland carries out strategic studies to identify engineering and environmental constraints, risks and opportunities associated with dualling the entire length of A9 between Perth and Inverness. These result in a decision that the dualling would generally follow the route of the existing A9 (within approximately 100m either side of the existing road).

  • December 2011
    Scottish Ministers confirm a commitment to upgrade the A9 between Perth and Inverness to full dual carriageway by 2025 as part of their Infrastructure Investment Plan.

  • 2008
    The Scottish Government's Strategic Transport Projects Review sets out the future investment programme for transport in Scotland over two decades, including the proposed dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness.

Further reading