A83 closed: landslide at Rest & Be Thankful

Update 16.00 10th September: The A83 has now reopened with the stretch affected by the 1070 tonne landslip at midday on Tuesday functioning  on single lane only operation under traffic light control – as it has done since the last slippage in 2007.

Scotland TranServ staff will continue to be present for some days to monitor hillside conditions as well as manage traffic.

For Argyll may not receive for some days  the information requested from Transport Scotland on the specific work done on this section of the A83 – and the dates on which it was done – between 2007 and today. Such work has been said repeatedly, but without any detail, to have contributed to this speedy reopening of the A83.

We have  no wish to rain on the parade of traffic now free to move in and out of Argyll by its principal access route. However, until we can be reassured by examination of such information, we continue to be concerned that political pressure has been factored in to the engineering assessments of the condition of the road.

We have particular discomfort on the state of the underpinnings of the road in particular, the embankment below it and the hillside above it – in that order.

Update 12.25 10th September: We have just been informed that the A83 is set to reopen at 3.00pm today. It has also now been revealed that the final weight of debris descending on the road was 1070 tonnes (over 250% of the volume of the 2007 land slip). This has now been removed in a swift and efficient exercise for which Jim Mather has already congratulated the Scotland Transerv management and road crews.

The information we have is that:

  • The geotechnical assessment concluded this morning and once traffic management system have been installed the road will reopen to all traffic at 3pm today.
  • 1070 tonnes of debris have been removed from the A83, the scoured lower embankment has been repaired with 250 tonnes of rockfill and the blocked culvert and ditches have been cleared and are running free.
  • The road will remain under traffic signal control, similar to the situation prior to the 8th September landslip, until the permanent measures are implemented next year.
  • These permanent measures were due to go out to tender at the start of next year and to be completed before the summer. These measures will now be quickly reassessed following Tuesday’s landslip but this is not expected to have a significant effect on delivery.

Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson says: ‘I’m delighted the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful is to reopen just 48 hours after the landslip, minimising inconvenience and disruption to the local community. The response has been swift and we appreciate the patience shown by the general public while the road was made safe and brought back to normal operations’.

Until we have the detailed statement we have asked for on the specific work done between the October 2007 landslip and this one – and on when such works were done, it is difficult to understand the speed with which the A83 has been reopened this time.  It has had a deluge of 250% of the 2007 debris which has since then kept the road operating as a single carriageway for fear of damage to its underpinnings in the 2007 incident.

However much of a relief it will be for Argyll to have the half road of two years familiarity reopened, it is reasonable to have concerns that political pressure may have been factored in to engineering assessments of the situation.

We will report on the statement from Transport Scotland when we receive it but regardless of the ins and outs of the current situation it is clear that Argyll must insist upon reliable arterial road access – whatever it takes.

Update 10.00 10th September: Jamie McGrigor MSP has written to Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson about the situation on Argyll;s A83, which remains closed until further notice. As a Dalmally resident, Jamie McGrigor is fully aware of the impact of this closufe on Argyll’s economic and social life.

In his letter and with his usual gift for identifying the heart of the matter, McGrigor nails a key point – he asks for information on exactly what has been done in the last two years to secure the road. Unevidenced boasts of work done and contributing to the alleged containment of the current landslip have been rife – and marked by the total absence of detail. We too are asking this question.

The text of Jamie McGrigor’s letter to the Transport Minister is:

‘I regret having to write to you once again concerning the landslide which has blocked the A83 at the Rest & Be Thankful.

‘This will prove disastrous for many businesses and transport operators in Argyll & Kintyre and constituents are demanding to know when the road will open.

‘From our previous correspondence after the landslide in the same place 2 years ago you told me that work had been done to bring down any extra material which might landslip and that the temporary traffic light was being left because of suspected weakening of the ground below the road.

‘It is disheartening therefore that this landslip occurred in the same place despite the work carried out.

‘Can you tell me in fact what work has been carried out, what has actually been done in the last two years to rectify the problem?

‘In your last letter to me you envisaged that the traffic light would be removed in the spring.

‘I spoke to a lorry driver who was waiting at the traffic lights and saw this landslide coming. Although he avoided injury he said it was terrifying to be trapped at the traffic light under the hill and pointed out the potential catastrophe that could have occurred if a stationary bus was pushed over the edge by a landslip at the traffic light.

‘The whole question of road links to Argyll & Bute and the west Highlands is continually arising with regards to the vulnerable state of the roads and once again I must call on you to bring about improvements.

‘I would like to see a debate in the Parliament on these recurring issues.

‘And above all can you let me know when the A83 will once again be fully open?’

Update 20.00 9th September: Western Ferries have put on additional services to answer demand for travel between Hunter’s Quay (Dunoon) & McInroy’s Point (Gourock).

Update 18.15 9th September: The Transport Minister has come to the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful and has spoken. Decoding his references to his parallel brief of Minister for Climate Change, the received sense is that landslides are something we must simply learn to live with.

That will not do.

We’re talking about the economic future of the second largest local authority area in Scotland, with its twin development targets of renewable energy specialism and activity and heritage tourism both requiring a first class and reliable road transport infrastructure.

‘Que sera, sera’ is not an attitude any minister is appointed to adopt. Being a Minister means finding and executing solutions – and if Scotland cannot embed this attitude, independence isn’t worth the candle. Only can do will do.

Update 15.15 9th September: Scotland TranServ has now issued an update on the situation on the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful. It doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know but it’s from the horse’s mouth.

Transerv removed 480 tonnes of debris from the road yesterday afternoon. From 7am this morning it has removed an additional 250 tonnes and is making good progress to clear the carriageway completely.

‘Once all the debris has been cleared, a site assessment will be carried out later today. This will involve evaluating hillside stability, supporting embankments and any damage which may have been caused to the road.

‘Until these evaluations have taken place, TranServ can give no timescale regarding when the road may be able to reopen to traffic’.

Update 12.45 9th September: We understand that Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson, will be on the scene at the A83 landslip in approximately one hour and we hope to have news on the developing situation later this afternoon.

It is also now known that the size of the landslip is even greater than anticipated and, at 800 tonnes, is twice as great as the 2007 deluge.

Update 12.15 9th September: The A83 remains closed ‘until further notice’, with engineering assessment to be done on the stability of the road itself and of the hillside above it.

The road is on the edge of a steep embankment and the October 2007 landslide saw water penetrate below the road, causing concern about the security of its foundations. This is key to why, since then, the A83 has been reduced at that same section to single lane traffic light-controlled operation.

Yesterday’s landslip was 30% bigger than the one in 2007 and a detailed photograph in today’s edition of The Herald shows possible cause for serious concern. Dominating Page 3, the photograph shows little cascades of water dropping off the upper edge of the road surface, from under the mud.

But just below and between these cascades there appears to be another and more solid source of water coming through from under the road. Looking at the photograph, this is below and a little to the right of the yellow-jacketed figure pictured looking down the hill, but not in a position to see what the photographer has caught.

There has been no sign of nor statement from Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson (we have now asked for one); but Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham has expressed sympathy for Argyll folk.

In a companion article we are asking where is the Transport Minister?

1.20pm 8th September: A major 600 tonne landslide has closed the A83 – in both directions – at Rest and be Thankful. Some vehicles are said to be stuck in the mud but, as far as we know at this time, no one has been injured.

The landslide has occurred on exactly the same spot as the last – 400 tonne – one in October 2007. This saw the A83 closed for several weeks. Since October 2007 the A83 at this point has been reduced to traffic light access to a single lane. There was concern that the this earlier landslide had undermined the foundation of the road as water and mud had gone through below as well as above the surface.

A second major landslide after heavy rain and in the same place cannot but add to concerns about the stability of the road. It is worrying to see lying toppled in the 2009 mud the concrete barriers set in 2007 to reduce the road with at this point. The A83 will certainly not be reopened until the authorities can be convinced on pubic safety issues. It remains closed ‘until further notice’.

While Transport Scotland hopes to have the road cleared by tomorrow, it says that a variety of assessments will have to be carried out before the road can be reopened. These include establishing the security of the road itself as well as the hillside above the road.

As the A83 is the main arterial road into and out of Argyll  – and one of only 3 roads into the region – diversions are  lengthy.

Closure details

The A83 is closed between the A815 at Cairndow on Loch Fyne and the A814 at Arrochar on Loch Long.

The A815 leaves the A83 in Glen Kinglas above Loch Fyne and runs down through the Cowal peninsula to the Western Ferries terminal at Hunter’s Quay (to McInroy’s Point, south of Gourock); and on to  the CalMac ferry terminal in Dunoon itself (to Gourock).

The A814 leaves the A83 at Arrochar, running along Loch Longside south towatds Helensburgh.

Access to Arrochar will be maintained and access from Inveraray to Lochgoilhead via the A83 remains open as the junction of the A83 with the B828 to Lochgoilhead at Rest and Be Thankful is just west of the closed section of the A83.

Road diversions are:

  • Northward – via the A82 from Tarbet to Crianlarich, then west on to Tyndrum and then south on the A85 to Dalmally and on to Oban. Traffic heading into Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islay ferry at Kennacraig, should, after Dalmally, take the A819 south for Inveraray, picking up the A83 again at Inveraray.
  • Southward – take the A819 to Oban for Inveraray, turning right onto the A85 for Tyndrum at the T-junction at the head of Loch Awe. At Tyndrum, turn right onto the A82 for Crianlarich. At Crianlarich, still on the A82, turn sharply right for Tarbet and Loch Lomond, picking up the A83 again at Tarbet.

Ferry access

Argyll is accessible by ferry via:

  • Western Ferries vehicle ferry form McInroy’s PoInt on the Clyde south of Gourock. This delivers traffic to Hunter’s Quay, just northwest of Dunoon. Turn right at the exit from the ferry terminal at Hunter’s Quay and right again 2-3 miles later  at the T-junction with the A815. This  then runs northwards up through the Cowal peninsula to join the A83 above Loch Fyne and west of the closed section.
  • Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) from Gourock to Dunoon, again with the A815 running northwards up through the Cowal peninsula to join the A83 above Loch Fyne and west of the closed section.
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46 Responses to A83 closed: landslide at Rest & Be Thankful

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  9. It’s an unhelpful comment, I know, but if the Rest was in Norway, the A83 would almost certainly pass under it–in a tunnel. That might be a bit too ambitious, but it’s certainly time to look at how to permanently secure this vital route.

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  10. The A83, in light of climatic changes and hugely increased heavy vehicular transport use in no longer viable as the main route into Argyll. In Norway is would certainly be a tunnel by now as Stephen MacKenzie above points out. But Norway is a small prosperous country with a huge oil fund. Scotland on the other hand is a small impoverished region of a huge bust state whose oil revenues have been used to fill in ther holes of the British economy and provide delights for London and the South East for forty years.
    This latest crisis further makes the case for the large, regular AND AFFORDABLE vehicle ferry service from Greenock directly into Dunoon.

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  11. Probably another unhelpful comment, but in line with the comments on Norway, I’m an Islay girl living in Western Australia. We have a huge mining and oil industry here with:

    1 The oil/ mining giants obliged to “give back” to the community on the grounds that they are making mega-bucks by taking a natural resource. Chevron for example have oil rigs off Exmouth, where I live, and annually offer grants up to $5000 (2,500 pounds) to community groups – our playgroup has completely rennovated its back-yard with several of these grants.

    2 More relevant to the Rest and Be Thankful situation, we now have a “Royalties for Regions” scheme, which ensures that revenue the State government makes out of the mining and oil industries makes it back to regional country areas (where the mines are) instead of it all staying in the big city. Exmouth, where I live, has just been awarded $1million (half million pounds), for several projects including completely doing up our shabby looking town centre.

    Exmouth by the way only has a population of 2,500 so this is big money coming to small communities.

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  12. A bridge over Loch Long? Like something in an Iain Banks novel! Well, there’s no harm in being ambitious.

    It’s obviously not just a matter of restoring the Rest, but introducing redundancy into the Argyll transport system as a whole so it can cope with the occasional outage. That will take a whole wodge of cash, and we’ll have to look at every possible way of funding it.

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  13. Nonchuk

    Indeed, and a complete rethink of how we provide transport links to Argyll. The fact of the matter is that all of the southern seaboard of Argyll – from Helensburgh, to Lochgoilhead, to Kilcreggan,to Dunoon, to Tighnabruiach and all of Kintyre is better entered,served and connected by services on our biggest and easiest highway – the Firth of Clyde and not by our deplorable and difficult roads which have been allowed to deteriorate along with hugely increased usage for the last forty years.

    The Rest and be Thankful Road is not the long term answer and while it is essential that it is brought back into use now with the utmost dispatch other transport links have to be designed and provided. Hopefully the suggested ferry link from C’town to Troon is proceeded with making the nonsense 150 mile plus road journey from Central Scotland to Kintyre a thing of the past
    Lochgoilhead is only 23 miles from Glasgow but it’s an 150 mile round trip at the moment. Helensburgh is actually 12 miles from Dunoon. It’s a 160 mile round trip presently between the two.
    Perhaps we should apply to become part of Norway. Then we’d have bridges and tunnels and all the boat and ferry services we need.

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  14. Western Ferries have stepped up their services into Dunoon in light of the current problem. What are Calmac doing about it?
    Actually bringing traffic for most of Argyll into the county through Dunoon and Cowal surely makes more sense than the tortuous route over the Rest and be Thankful.

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  15. more than £400 million pounds was wasted building an unnecessary parliament building in edinburgh when the countrys roads were crying out for investment . clearly lack of money is not the problem , lack of political will is .
    remember what the loch lomond road used to be like ? that problem was sorted out by the uk govenrment .
    i think if our nationalist representatives spent less of their time (and our money ) trying to break up the uk and more time fighting for proper roads in argyll we would not be in the mess we are in .

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  16. Has anyone spokento the local MSP about the extra cost of either taking the detour or your car on the ferry for what is for a lot of residents a daily journey to get to work. In this financial climate it looks like it is the man on the street who will be forking out again due to the authorities inability to remedy what has now been a long ongoing problem.

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  17. Pingback: Argyll News: A83 to reopen at 3.00pm today :Argyll,Argyll Bute,roads,transport | For Argyll

  18. We would not need to learn Norwegian but we could learn a lot from them!Most of them speak excellent English as well!

    The road is to reopen today and I understand that the difference between the time on this occasion and last was because of the barriers erected to protect the road surface and the considerable amount of surveying done on the hillside above and below the road.No doubt the technical experts will explain more fully.

    Kintyre 1 understandably uses a pseudonym here. His inane comment from yesterday looks a bit silly today! Does he not know that the “UK government” took decades to upgrade the southern half of the A82 and never got round to the other half from Tarbet to Inverarnan. The unionist parties in the parliament recently voted away £500 million on the Edinburgh tramway system.

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  19. I have to laugh at kintyre 1′s juvenile posts. I’m surprised he isn’t blaming the rain on the SNP Government.
    I maintain however that the A83 over the Rest in its present form is not a suitable long term option for the huge and growing volume of traffic entering Argyll over it.
    It is ludicrous in this day and age that Kintyre and Campbeltown, which are on the verge of a huge and sustained economic revival, are reached only along this very limited and very long road.

    We have to completely rethink our ferry and coastal traffic strategy and this is the long term solution. Our ferry services right across Scotland have suffered massive neglect in both strategic and material provision for fifty years and this hard-pressed Scottish Government inherited a shambles.
    This is hardly the economic climate that will make solutions readily available

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  20. Pingback: Argyll News: BBC goof in lunchtime news on A83 reopening :Argyll,Argyll Bute,A83,news, | For Argyll

  21. As a matter of interest and for kintyre 1′s information the nationalist party wanted the Royal High School in Edinburgh for the Scottish Parliament. It was Labour and particularly Donald Dewar who decided on the new build Parliament. Perhaps kintyre 1 had forgotten that. Or perhaps he spends his time trying to think of any excuse to attack the SNP.
    Much is made of the cost of the Scottish Parliament. As a one-off it’s pretty small beer in comparison with other items of Government expenditure. It’s less than months worth of Government expenditure on our nonsensical adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact it’s about the same as the expediure in building Portcullis House – a block of offices buiult for the London Parliament – and less than the cost of each of the underground stations on the Jubilee Line

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  22. i’m not surprised the nats forgot to mention the arc of prosperity ,we havent heard that one for a while .
    have the self appointed spokesmen of the snp here forgotten that their party came to power promising a ferry link from campbeltown to northern ireland ? another broken promise .
    david m hill may be interested to know that the skilled businessman owner of the excellent kintyre express tried to run a regular service from troon to campbeltown and despite a superb effort there were just not enough passengers to support it .

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  23. Does kintyre 1 live in Kintyre?
    I think he’ll find that the proposed ferry service to N Ireland is in the pipeline. Sadly the last Labour/LibDem regime allowed the boats that had been acquired for this very route to be redirected to the Isle of Man and this is holding everything up.
    The proposed ferry to Troon if it comes to fruition will be on a PSO basis like much of the Calmac network.

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  24. the nats excuses get worse and worse .
    when does david m hill expect the campbeltown/northern ireland service to restart ?
    the titanic was built in 3 years

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  25. Kintyre1′s comments are funny.

    Bloke sitting in a Glasgow cinema while Titanic was showing, overheard the following dialogue from a couple in front

    “Good, eh?”
    “Why for naw?”
    “S’gonnae sink!”
    “Naw it’s naw.”

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  26. michael forsyths government built all the facilities ferry terminal ,ramp,building etc and got a ferry service running for three summer seasons with no subsidy which is more than any of his successors could manage

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  27. while you all debate which party is the worst out of them all, may i suggest that they are all to blame for the situation on the west coast ! its all about numbers, as is everything, and as much as anyone wants to argue that the numbers on kintyre add up to thinking that any major sort of investment will ever be put into our roads and ferry services, think again, its never going to happen! Residents in kintyre and along the A83 will argue that there is not enough spent on their roads…come to Islay and have a look at our roads!! we all pay the same road taxes but we dont get the same return for it, why is this ? numbers, pure and simple, there ar not enough of us to make a difference and in the scale of things it is the same problem on kintyre…you can argue about that all you want, but thats the facts im afraid!
    As for being more like Norway ? aye, lets do that, did you read the recent tales of Scottish football fans that travelled there for a game ? £130 for a “cheap” kettle, £8 a pint, £4o for a pizza….its all relative, and as was pointed out, Norway didnt get mugged by another country and lose its revenue from its oil industry.
    There will never be a tunnel or a bridge. What work was done on the site of the landslide since the original incident ? nothing apart from making us wait at traffic lights from day 1, and all your local mp’s from whatever party stayed silent as they would be too busy riding on the most popular bandwagon that was rolloing through their constituancy…..because that is all they do, always has been, always will be. Will it improve ? no. because the roads are a perfect display of how politics and public spending works, on Islay the roads are shit ! we then cross on a government subsidised ferry service to kintyre where the roads are 100% better but still not great, and the nearer you get to Glasgow the better they get, thats life, and how many people think that in 10 years time we will sit typing our praise of the improvements ? not me.

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  28. For Gavin: Know what you mean in a lot of this, Gavin – but I’ve read your comments on a lot of the Diage articles on this site and you’re forgetting that Diageo are into numbers big time. The numbers didn’t stack up in Kilmarnock so bang go 700 jobs.

    But here’s a thought. There might be an answer for Islay’s roads. If the Scottish Government argument is right (and for me it is) – that Scotland was robbed of a fair share of oil revenues, why shouldn’t Islay, Kintyre and Orkney be given a fair share of the money from renewable energy in tide and offshore wind power that will be generated for Scotland in their areas?

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  29. Gavin tells us that Islay’s roads are not very good and that Kintyre’s roads are much better.
    Kintyre1 states that Kintyres roads are full of potholes. KI thinks that the former Ballycastle Ferry was a success -and it was- for those who were able to sail off with a cut price ferry.

    Hyak ;:There are moves to ensure that communities benefit from local energy initiatives and it would be right and proper for those to be invested in roads, ferries and social housing.We have a very long way to go to redress the neglect of our transport network that has been underfunded for generations.

    Incidentally, Gavin, I know several Norwegians and while they concede that for poor visiting UK citizens -that’s the ones from the fourth largest economy in the world, according to Gordon Brown – their prices are high, they are quite manageable for them as they enjoy a high standard of living. This level of prosperity has something to do with being an oil rich independent nation of around 5 million citizens on the edge of Europe with a level of services that we can only dream of.All this and a very substantial Social Oil Reserve built up when the UK was blowing its share of North Sea revenues.

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  30. The Norwegian Oil Fund for Future Generations now stands at over $320 billion. At a conservative estimate that is putting into the Norwegian economy more than the whole Scottish budget every year without hardly touching the base sum.
    The Norwegian Government has put astronomical taxes on lots of items but particularly booze to inhibit over-consumption as their population is too well-off (if that’s a complaint).

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  31. I suppose when Norway hasnt been taken over by neighbouring Sweden then its use and control over its oil is a great example of what could have been for scotland….in an ideal world ! but we do not live in an ideal world, we live in “great” Britain.

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  32. nationalists waste their time in fantasy land but most people will be appaled by the decision by the snp to cancel glasgow airports rail link another slap in the face for the west of scotland

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  33. How predictable is this Kintyre1 Jonah ?

    Most people are not appalled by the decision to cancel the GARL but recognise that, at a time of “savagely” reduced budgets and pressure on front line services, a project that appeared to be lurching out of financial control and is of dubious value anyway should be given the bullet. Of course Glasgow Labour politicians -and Kintyre1 -like Pavlov’s Dogs, seek to make political capital but these same Labour MSPs voted to give the go ahead to the Edinburgh Tramway project and that effectively killed off the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link (EARL)
    The true cost of the Edinburgh Tramway has yet to be calculated but will, in all probability, like the true and ongoing costs of PPP and PPR return to haunt future generations.

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  34. The A83 and many of roads in a similar predicament needs the trees & other foiliage to remain in place to hold the soil together – NOT having the treee etc stripped from the hillsides which when become waterlogged cause landslips etc.
    It would also be worth closing the 83 for a short time and having it widened and reinforced

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  35. I wonder if there is scope for upgrading the track along Glen Kinglas, building a new road along the shore of Loch Sloy, and upgarding the track to Inveruglas, in order to create a new route to B road standard that would act as a contingency route?

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  36. Tim is spot on with his comments. Trees would hold the soil in place control the passage of water through the soil and maintain a biologically appropriate level of water in the soil, further, they are a carbon bank. It really is about time that people who use the term sustainable, in terms of sustainable development, learn what the term means. At the moment most political parties are acting like the bank that likes to say yes – but doesn’t understand the question!

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  37. Ok, the landslip protection fencing is up and remote monitoring is now in place on the A83 Rest and Be Thankful, when is the road going to be returned to a two-way service?

    It’s already 3 years since the intial landslide, yet another tourist season upon us and more traffic eroding the existing road surface twice as fast as would normally occur on a two way road, leading to the fact the road now probably needs a full resurfacing in the affected area ahead of schedule.

    If Transerv etc can shift 1000 tonnes of landslide debris in a couple of days, why does it take 3 years to put up a 4m high fence 80m long and electronic wizzardry to monitor future events?

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  38. I will sleep comfortably in my bed in the knowledge that Mr Wakeham has pronounced his assessment that Transerv’s engineers appear competent.

    And no doubt the aforesaid engineers will breathe easy too knowing that they have been pronounced fit.

    Maybe with a bit of luck Mr Wakham might give Transerv a bit of his engineering wisdom and donate a solution. How about moving the mountain, an elevated highway, or a tunnel Mr W?

    We,await your wisdom.

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  39. Willie: Do you really think that the Transerv engineers are masters of their own house? They’re employed by a consortium of private companies contracted to manage the road on behalf of Transport Scotland (who set the budget) to carry out day-to-day maintenance and to manage other contractors for additional works – for example the arrestor net that was put up on the east ramp of the Rest a year or two ago.
    You mention an elevated highway, or a tunnel, and both might conceivably play a part in sorting this road, as happens in other countries. What’s so different about Scotland, Willie – a traditional ‘can’t be done’ philosophy for publicly owned infrastructure, as seen in action on the A82 between Tarbet and Glen Falloch? You surely don’t need to be an engineer to be aware of what the possibilities are.

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