Preferred option for A9 Berriedale Braes upgrade by 2014

Berriedale Braes hairpin bend Drivers face steep climbs and descents at the Berriedale Braes

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A preferred option for improving a notorious section of the A9 should be known next year, Transport Scotland has said.

The trunk road drops from 150m (492ft) to 20m (65ft) as it enters a valley at the Berriedale Braes in Caithness.

There is also a hairpin bend which can cause difficulties for drivers of large vehicles.

Transport Scotland is preparing to award a £90,000 contract for ground investigation work to BAM Ritchies.

It forms part of a wider design project which aims to provide a preferred option in summer 2014.

The ground investigation is expected to begin early next month and last for three weeks.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said the results would inform a possible solution to the hairpin.

He said: "This government is committed to an improvement scheme at Berriedale Braes where the natural geography makes a challenging road alignment, particularly for HGVs and other long vehicles.

"We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that the design of this vital scheme is progressed as a matter of urgency and ready for next summer."

The A9 is the longest trunk road in Scotland.

Last week, Mr Brown said a £3bn project to upgrade the route from Perth to Inverness to dual carriageway should be past the halfway mark by 2022.

The project is to be completed in 2025.

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