THE Scottish Government and Transport Scotland have been urged to allocate extra resources to the A83 as it reopens following landslides.
The road through the Rest And Be Thankful was closed to traffic for over a week after thousands of tonnes of debris reached catch-fences above the carriageway on Tuesday October 9 following poor weather.
Motorists initially faced a 60-mile reroute, as the Old Military Road alternative route was also affected by boulders which had fallen during the incident.
Following a final safety assessment and police check, the road was reopened at around 11.20am on Thursday.
Temporary traffic lights will remain in place for safety while teams working on landslip mitigation measures.
A 24-hour recovery vehicle and additional patrols will be laid on for the next few days to help keep traffic moving during the reopening.
#A83 #RestAndBeThankful has *REOPENED* following multiple landslips last week. Teams have completed recovery works after 3,000 tonnes of material reached the specially designed landslip mitigation measures above the road. More here: https://t.co/BQaEByG14D
— BEAR NW Trunk Roads (@NWTrunkRoads) October 18, 2018
Local councillors today unanimously agreed to call on the Government to formally commit to identifying and funding a permanent solution to the problems that have become a regular occurrence in the area.
Councillor Aileen Morton, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, said: “This Council, local residents, businesses and parliamentarians have all been clear for years that a permanent solution for the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful is absolutely essential, that the negative impact of the road closures and the negative impact of the reporting of the road closures is detrimental to Argyll’s communities.
“What made this latest closure so significant is the fact that the landslides and severe weather also wiped out, for a period, the supposed solution to the problem – the Old Military Road, which too remained closed until Monday 15th October, one full week after the first landslide
“The failure of the most recent works to keep the road open demands an urgent review of existing and future plans at the Rest and Be Thankful.”
Councillor Morton recognised the scale of financial support required would be ‘substantial’, but compared it to other high-profile roads infrastructure upgrades across the country.
She said: “When considered in the light of other investments across the country, such as the Queensferry Crossing at a cost of £1.350 billion pounds or the Aberdeen bypass at a cost of £745million, then the potential costs here are put into a different perspective.
“Argyll is a great place to live, work and visit. Argyll is here, offering the potential to drive not only our own economy but also boost that of Scotland as a whole.
“That can’t be allowed to be lost because of a piece of road. Our communities, and in fact the wider Scottish economy, need and deserve a robust road network that keeps Argyll open.”
The Leader of Argyll and Bute Council is to urge the Scottish Government to formally commit to identifying and funding a permanent solution to keep the A83, and Argyll and Bute, open for business. https://t.co/EqcwUDiAec pic.twitter.com/4kvRh0bAUH
— Argyll and Bute Council (@argyllandbute) October 18, 2018
The message was echoed today in a statement from Argyll & The Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC).
The group, which represents the tourist industry in the area, called for “a canopy, a tunnel, or some other engineering solution that provides guarantees that the trunk road remains open at all times.”
Calum Ross, chair of AITC, said: “Spend needs to be diverted from other transport projects to finding an immediate solution to the Rest and Be Thankful.
“The tourism impact of this trunk road being closed is significant and wide reaching.
“The tourism industry in Argyll is one of the most important sectors in the region, which has been experiencing unprecedented growth in recent years and significant investment.”
The AITC statement cited the example of The Slanj in Tarbet, one of over 1000 businesses represented by the group, which had to close over the weekend due to lack of business thanks to the diversion.
Owner Jane Ireland, whose commute became 120 miles long from its usual 18 miles, said: “We can’t plaster a gaping wound. People can’t get into Argyll when that road is closed.
“All the great work being done promoting this amazing area becomes a waste of time while that hillside remains a risk to the A83.”
Rest and Be Thankful is the highest point on the A83, separating Glen Kinglas from Glen Croe.
The area is also at high risk of landslides and hazards caused by debris flow, exacerbated by heavy rainfall.
Millions of pounds have been invested in improvement works in recent years, including a study into how to minimise the effects of closures.
As a result of the 2013 study, work to erect debris fencing, netting, drainage improvements, enhancement to slope vegetation, culvert improvements and catch pits was undertaken.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, said: “I would like to thank the local community for their patience and the recovery teams for their tireless work to get the road back open again.
“I saw the size of the operation myself, and there is no doubt these have been some of the most challenging landslides at the Rest and Be Thankful in recent memory.
“We are very aware of the importance of the A83 to this region and £66m has been spent on the maintenance of this route since 2007. This includes over £9.6m towards landslide mitigation works and the local diversion route.
“Work has already begun on a further £2m worth of mitigation measures to help improve the resilience of the A83 and help keep Argyll open for business.
“I will also reconvene the A83 Taskforce on the 15th November, where we will consider the ongoing challenges at the Rest and Be Thankful.”
The 2013 study considered but ruled out the construction of tunnels or a new route on the opposite hillside, with an upper cost estimate of around £90m.
The assessment concluded that the chosen path of improvement works would result in a similar level of benefits.