Ross County and Caley Thistle support campaign for A9 dualling due to safety concerns

The north’s two main football clubs are among the most frequent users of the A9 and anticipate each journey south with some concern.

Clubs and supporters in the central belt often say they dislike making the trip to Inverness or Dingwall a few times each season.

For Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle players, officials and supporters, it is a journey made every second week.

Their regular experiences of being delayed due to accidents on the road have united both clubs in supporting the campaign to have the Inverness-Perth stretch dualled as a priority to improve safety.

‘The main issue is safety’ say Caley Thistle and County

The County first team make 25 away trips a year, spending 250 hours on the notorious route.

In addition, there are meetings and mandatory events the club has to attend in the central belt.

Young players, aged between 11 and 16, can have 40 away trips and the under-18 squad plays 12 away matches per season, almost all using the A9 south of Inverness.

Caley Thistle teams face a similar number of journeys.

For County chief executive Steven Ferguson spending that much time on a road which is not fully dualled raises an obvious concern.

He said: “The main issue for us is the same as for any other individual, family or business living and working in the Highlands travelling the A9 on a regular basis and that is safety.

“For us, a premier league football club with a first team and academy playing in a national games programme, we have no option but to travel the A9.

Very busy traffic, both north and south, on a single carriageway section of the A9 as it crosses Drumochter. Image Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

“The A9 being closed is a regular occurrence and causes concern. For the road to be closed, we know it’s serious, so with staff, supporters and families travelling it is definitely a worry.

“I will say all our thoughts are firstly with the poor people that are involved in any accident before any issues we have with travel arrangements.

“I think anyone that travels the A9 will see at least one accident or near miss every trip, which is a crazy statistic.

“There have been some horrendous accidents that sadly have resulted in too many people losing their lives.”

Mr Ferguson says the same issues and concerns are shared by opposition teams, staff, families and supporters.

“We see a significant drop-off from central belt clubs supporters and academies travelling to the Highlands in the winter and the reason is always around concerns about travelling.

Dualling will reduce risk of accidents

“The issue won’t completely go away until the full stretch has been addressed and provides consistent driving conditions.

“I accept that dualling between Perth and Inverness cannot take away human error, but the risk of accidents will reduce hugely.

“Dualling would simplify the drive, reduce travel time and frustrations and manage the heavy visitor traffic going north and south on a daily basis, as well as decreasing the chances of a full road closure.”

Scot Gardiner, CEO of Caley Thistle, said he has raised issues surrounding the A9 with his counterpart as they have come more to the fore recently.

“As Highland businesses, let alone football clubs, we both felt it would give out a very strong message to show that our two clubs support the dualling of the A9.

Both clubs are often delayed by accidents on the A9

“Our Caley Thistle team bus has travelled up and down the A9 hundreds of times over the years and we have been caught in huge traffic delays many times because of traffic accidents.

“Sadly, on at least one occasion, when heading south to play in a match this has been because of a fatal accident.

“The game did not seem important after that.”

Mr Gardiner said thousands of Caley Thistle fans, and supporters of other clubs, are also travelling on the A9 in all weather conditions and at all times of day during the season.

Support for A9 campaign

“And while football is a game of opinions where we rarely agree on anything, none of us would disagree that safety should always come first for friends, family, staff and colleagues and that the A9 dualling is a massive priority for the country and the region.

“No matter what team we support work or play for, all of us in the Highlands feel the same terrible knot in the stomach when we hear there has been another accident on the A9, because they rarely seem to be inconsequential.

“Everyone joins together to support the campaign and intention to dual the A9 as a matter of priority.”

Courtesy of Latest News and Sport Headlines from Inverness | Press and Journal