Transport Scotland has announced a shortlist of four organisations that it has invited to tender for the design work for the western section of the A96 dualling programme.
It says the contract for the 29 mile stretch between Hardmuir and Fochabers, which was published in October, is worth up to £50 million.
The four shortlisted design consultancies or joint ventures are AECOM Limited, Amey Arup Joint Venture, CH2M Fairhurst Joint Venture, and Mott MacDonald Grontmij Joint Venture.
The contract covers a section from Hardmuir, east of Nairn to Fochabers
Keith Brown, Scottish Government cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities said: ‘This major contract marks a further milestone towards the dualling of the A96 with all the investment and improvements that will bring to the Highlands and north-east of Scotland.
'The breadth of interest from the industry is testament to the importance of this major infrastructure project and again underlines the significant investment that this Government is making in the transport network across Scotland with the M8M73M74 Motorway Improvements Project and the Aberdeen bypass on the ground, and the Forth Replacement Crossing due for completion later this year.’
He added: ‘When completed, the A96 dualling programme will deliver a number of benefits, including improved journey time and reliability, improved connectivity and improved road safety for all those who use this key artery connecting two of Scotland’s economic hubs.’
Transport Scotland says it is ‘on target to publish draft road Orders later in 2016’ on the more advanced Inverness to Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) scheme.