Transport Scotland is inviting bids for a multi-million pound contract covering dualling works on the A96 trunk road in the north of Scotland.

Worth up to £50m, the contract covers around 29 miles of the western section of the A96 east of Auldearn to east of Fochabers, Scotland.

Scottish Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Cabinet Secretary Keith Brown said: "The publication of this contract notice marks another significant milestone in a dualling programme that will deliver a number of benefits when completed, 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.

"This contract will provide many opportunities for small and medium enterprises through subcontracted work."

"When this contract is awarded early next year, design work for the western section will step up a gear, with route option assessment work getting underway.

"This contract will also provide the successful bidders with steady work for years to come, and many more opportunities for small and medium enterprises through subcontracted work, so it will be a boost for the local and national economy."

The A96 dualling project will see delivery of around 88 miles of upgraded road between Inverness and Aberdeen, upgrading the trunk road to dual carriageway by 2030.

In February, Transport Scotland awarded a major design contract, worth £30m, for the Inverness to Nairn, including Nairn Bypass, section of the A96 dualling programme to Jacobs UK.

The Scottish Government is already making major infrastructure investment in projects such as the £3bn A9 dualling programme, new Queensferry Crossing, and recently completed Borders Railway project.