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.
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.
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.