A83 landslide closure updates

(16.00 Latest) Situation updates 5 December 2011

Update 16.00 5th December: Current arrangements to continue for time being

Scotland Transerv say that the arrangements put in place on Saturday 3rd December (road open daily 0830 to 1600) will continue until the current weather patterns change.

Outwith the opening times the same diversion route will continue -  via A83 Dalmally- A85 Tyndrum-A82 Tarbet. This will add an extra 26 miles to the journey.  Importantly access is still available to Arrochar and the A814 and also Cairndow and the A815.

Scotland Transerv are very grateful to the public for their continuing support and patience.

Update 12.00 4th December: Snow ploughs up at Rest and Be Thankful. Light snow on tops overnight, currently heavy sky with intermittent rain falling as sleet.

Traffic Scotland is warning that: ‘Sleet and snow showers will continue during Sunday afternoon and evening across Scotland (and in Argyll and Bute) and will last through Monday, bringing accumulations of snow to some areas. Icy stretches are likely to form on untreated surfaces. The public should be aware that this could lead to travel disruption in places.’

17.30 update 2nd December: Closed tonight, open 8.30 Saturday 3rd December for daylight hours

A Transport Scotland spokesman has just said:

‘Public safety remains our main priority and we appreciate the patience shown by those affected since the road closure yesterday.

‘At present the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful remains closed except to emergency vehicles, with diversions via the A819, A85 and A82 remaining in place.

‘Work to clear the road of around 120 tonnes of mud and boulders has concluded and the road surface and drainage systems have now been cleaned. Detailed surveys on the slopes above the road have been carried out today by geotechnical experts and additional safety mitigation measures are being put in place later today.

‘Given the need to closely monitor hillside conditions, which can only be conducted during daylight hours, coupled with the Met Office forecast for rainfall and changeable conditions until Tuesday, road authority partners have concluded the A83 should open during daylight hours only, reverting to the diversions above during hours of dark.

‘We therefore expect to reopen the road to traffic at 8.30am tomorrow morning (Sat) and for it to remain open during daylight hours, closing again at 4pm. This arrangement is scheduled to remain in place until Tuesday when it will be reviewed again, and is subject to prevailing weather and road conditions.

‘This solution is designed first and foremost to protect the safety of drivers using the road and road workers manning the traffic management arrangements, whilst accommodating the needs of the local communities.

‘Motorists should allow extra time for their journeys and pay attention to any advisory signs which will be in place throughout the works.’

For Argyll would add that, with ‘significant’ snowfalls forecast for Sunday 4th December for much of Argyll and for this area, it would be prudent for anyone considering travelling via the A83 in daylight hours on Sunday – and particularly in the afternoon – to check the current status at the Rest with Traffic Scotland in good time.

15.00 update:  The planned 13.00 update did not happen

We have enquired about the current position and have, however, been told to expect an update soon. Scotland Transewrv is aware that people are anxious about planning their weekend travel – and the vast majority of vehicles coming in to or leaving Argyll does so via the A83.

10.30 update: – no decision before 13.00

With the safety of the public and the Scotland Transerv workforce an absolute priority,  the detailed examination of the stability of the hillside above the area of the most recent landslip on the A83 is continues as from its start at first light this morning.

The examination will continue until such Scotland Transerv’s geo-technical engineers are satisfied that public safety can be assured.

The earliest time that a decision is expected to be made on the reopening of the road is 13.00 to-day. We will report on that decision when we get it.

Scotland Transerv  wish to express their gratitude to the public for their continuing support and patience.

A Diversion route is in place via A83 Dalmally- A85 Tyndrum-A82 Tarbet. This will add an extra 26 miles to the journey.  Importantly access is still available to Arrochar and the A814 and also Cairndow and the A815.

08.00 update: A83 remains closed to traffic

Situation assessment is restarting – and rain is falling. More updates as we get them.

A83 latest

It’s happened: A83 landslide closure

(Original story and situation updates: 1st December 2011)

We are indebted to the Kintyre Forum for alerting us to this very quickly.

Just before 7.30 this morning Traffic Scotland announced that the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful is closed – and will be until further notice -  in both directions because of a landslide.

The closure points are at the junction of the A83 with the A815 – into the Cowal peninsula; and at the Ardgartan Visitor Centre, west of Loch Long.

The usual diversion is in place for traffic in both directions  – via A83 Inveraray – A819 Dalmally – A85 Tyndrum – A82 Tarbet and in reverse for traffic from Glasgow.

The diversion adds 26 miles to the journey.

This has been happening at two year intervals since 2007 – to what is literally Argyll’s arterial road, running into the area from Glasgow in the south and all the way across and down it to the Mull of Kintyre at Campbeltown.

All that Transport Scotland has done is make do and mend – on a hillside known to be unstable in conditions of prolonged and/or sudden heavy rainfall.. In the last week we have had both.

There is no evidence of any advance strategic thinking on reliable access to this extensive and significant land mass.

Political responses

From Argyll and Bute;s MSP, Michael Russell: ‘I have been in touch with the Transport Minister who assures me that everything possible is being done to clear the site and ensure that the the road is safe and reopenened as quickly as possible. It is imperative that the road is reopened as soon as possible as the alternative routes are lengthly, present huge logistical problems and disadvantage many Argyll businesses who rely on the passing trade that the traffic on this route provides.’

From Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands MSP and Argyll & Bute Councillor Donald Kelly (South Kintyre):  Jamoe McGrigor and Donald Kelly are calling for the Scottish Government to take urgent action to ensure that the A83 is re-opened as soon as possible following a new landslide at the Rest & Be Thankful and to make sustained investment in the route to ensure that landslides are prevented in future.

Jamie McGrigor asked an urgent constituency question on the issue at First Minister’s Question Time today and has also been in contact with the Transport Minister, Keith Brown, this morning. The First Minister informed Jamie that the clearance operation would get underway once the water had subsided and inspections confirmed it was safe to do so. Mr Salmond also said he anticipated the road being closed for up to 24 hours.

Councilor Donald Kelly said: ‘The closure of the A83 is potentially devastating for the economy of Campbeltown and Kintyre as it is the main and most important route into and out of Kintyre. I am deeply concerned about the impact this closure will have on local businesses which are already under real pressure due to the tough economic conditions.

‘This is the third time in four years that the Rest and Be Thankful has been affected by a landslide. It was closed for lengthy periods in 2007 and 2009 and everything possible must be done both to reopen the road as soon as possible and to ensure that these circumstances are not repeated. Jamie McGrigor and I have been urging the Scottish Government to take action on this issue for many years and it is deeply disappointing that this road has once again been closed.’

Jamie McGrigor MSP said: ‘Yet again the A83 which is a lifeline route to Argyll, Dunoon and Campbeltown and the main gateway for tourists to these areas has been blocked at the Rest & Be Thankful.

‘I have been for years urging successive Transport Ministers to accept the key strategic importance of the A83 and to invest in areas that are at risk of landslides to ensure they can be prevented.

‘If we are serious about attracting inward investment to Argyll & Bute and Kintyre and Campbeltown in particular then this state of affairs is simply not acceptable.’

Situation updates 1 December 2011

10.55: Details of landslide

This is not a reopening of the last serious landslide. It is a new one, 0.5 miles away, on the Inveraray side of the previous slip,

As an indication of its relative significance, where the last one in 2009 was 1,100 tons of material, this one is estimated to be between 80 and 100 tons. However, Scotland Transerv emphasises that it is early days. A full assessment of the slippage is being carried out.

We are in regular contact with Scotland Transerv and will update here immediately as soon as we get the information.

12.30: Confirmation of location

We have had formal confirmation from Scotland Transerv that the new landslide is indeed 0.5 miles west of rest and Be Thankful.

13.00 update: Clearance operation begun

Scotland Transerv has confirmed that access remains available:

  • to Arrochar and the A814 (the Loch Longside road to Garelochhead and Helensburgh)
  •  and to Cairndow and the A815 (the road into the Cowal peninsula)

They also say that the clearance operation is now underway and regular updates on progress will follow – published here at once.

They emphasise that safety is of paramount importance and a detailed assessment of the hillside is currently underway.  Transerv have to be certain that there is now more loosened material on the hillside, When the full assessment is complete Scotland Transerv will be in a position to give an indication of when the road will reopen. We will report that information here as soon as we have it.

14,30 update: site photograph above

While Scotland Transerv are still saying ‘west’ of the last 2009 landslide and wile the BBC’s shot in the 1.30 news bulleton looked like the road west of the previousn one, alongside Loch Restil, this shot they have kindly sent us does look as if it could be read as east – downhill – of the 2009 slip. But Scotland Transerv are using GPS and have also said that the new landslip is ‘on the Inveraray side’, which is the west side.

This photographs does show the limited amount of material on the road. The question the full assessment will answer is whether or not there is likely to be more.

16.15 update: closure to continue overnight

A single lane clearance is now in effect to allow access for all emergency  services vehicles only.

These access arrangements will continue overnight.

Scotland Transerv’s engineers have continuing concerns about the stability of the hillside so the closure will continue overnight; with the situation to be reviewed at first light to-morrow morning. We will report their findings as soon as we get them.

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107 Responses to A83 landslide closure updates

  1. Good to have the update, as there’s no inkling of the likely scale of the problem on the Traffic Scotland website, and the Scottish Citylink website is yet to flag the delay, although West Coast Motors have posted it on both Twitter and Facebook.

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  2. The available information seems to be a bit confused.
    The Traffic Scotland website has the road closed between the B828 and A815, suggesting that the slip is west of the Lochgoilhead turn-off (and implying an unofficial diversion via Hell’s Glen might be possible).
    The traffic cameras on the Traffic Scotland website appear to show the road closed to east bound traffic just after the lochgoilhead turn-off, placing the slip east of the turn-off.
    The BBC Scotland news site has a photo that looks very like the location of the old slip – you can see what looks like the sharp left-hander at the top of Glen Croe in the distance. Of course, the Beeb could be recycling an old photo.
    Any chance of FA sending a roving reporter to find out what’s going on on the ground (if you haven’t already done so)?

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    • For Michael Reid; The information we have given on the landslide is direct from Scotland Transerv who are at the site and we have the mobile number of a key official; and on traffic management, direct from Strathclyde Police.

      This does not mean that it is guaranteed to be correct but there are no greater authoritative sources.

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      • The latest update, confirmimng that the location is to the west, does seem very odd given that the BBC News photos and the Traffic Scotland webcam at the Rest both indicate it’s to the east, as Michael Reid says.

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        • For Robert Wakeham: It seems to be on the hillside above the road along Loch Restil before the drop down to Butter Bridge, which would be half a mile west of the last one.

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          • The retaining wall in the photos really doesn’t look like anywhere along the Loch Restil stretch, or to the west down towards Butterbridge for that matter, and (wonders of modern technology) Google streetview confirms this; the only stretch of wall / steep rocky hillside in the area that matches the photo is on the east ramp of the Rest.

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          • I would agree with RW. It’s on the Arrochar side of the Lochgoilhead road end. Google street view confirms this and the snow pole pinpoints it exactly as it’s in both pics.

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  3. £433 million extra money for Scotland announced this week , about time Alex Salmond and co spent some of it upgrading Argyll & Bute’s roads and ferries .

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    • Alex Salmond must have had a hard night up there on the Rest in that weather. Digging away all night to block the road. Of course he would have had some help from the rest of the SNP Government. Aye, right! Only in k1′s tiny mind.

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  4. A series of french drains are needed to intercept seepage above the road. The FD would redirect groundwater to a point of discharge below the road. It isn’t an impossible task but I admit I am not familiar with the topography and soil conditions.

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  5. In the interests of accuracy I’d have to disagree with the position after following Michael Reid’s link. The site can be identified by using the following link & is nearer to the last landslip site & the Rest. A culvert passes under the road at this point & the gully above looks like a natural focus for the fallen material. It’s certainly to the East though! http://g.co/maps/zrdca
    All the points made about east/west of the Rest are important though if you were travelling from Glasgow to Lochgoilhead. You would expect Transerv to get it right – wouldn’t you?

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    • Keith – I think you are probably right. I was just seeking to establish the position of the slip relative to the B828 junction more accurately as this could be important to people needing to access this junction from either direction, and if the blockage was west of this junction, then there is scope for a shorter diversion, albeit on minor roads.

      I’ve falled fall of this type of inaccurate reporting myself in the past. Last year the A83 was blocked when an abnormal load was shed. I was in Glasgow at the time travelling to Lochgair. Traffic Scotland reported the road was closed at Furnace, so I decided to ferry-hop to Tarbert. When I got to Dunoon I found out that the the road was really blocked just south of Lochgair. Fortunately I was then able to take the A815 back up to the A83 and get home that way, but I very nearly ended up stuck on the wrong side of the blockage.

      The authorities seem to think its enough to say that the road is closed between say Tarbet and Inveraray, or Inveraray and Lochgilphead, which it is if you’re travelling right through. But if you want to go somewhere between these points you need more accurate info.

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  6. It think it is testament to the work they did in the former main landslip area that it has held throughout the appalling amount of rain we have had this year. It is not at all surprising that it has burst somewhere else: that hillside is never going to be stable, and the cost of stabilising all of it would be vast.
    The solution to this type of problem in the Alps (and it is common) eliminates both landslip and snow problems: putting a sloped roof over the road with open supports on the downhill side so that it is like a semi-tunnel. Expensive initially, but ultimately much cheaper. That is not to say that some debris clearance might not be required at times from the roof, but the road wouldn’t have to close.

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    • Catherine: this eminently sensible solution is not totally foreign to Scotland, as there’s just such a gallery protecting the A890 and Kyle railway at Attadale on the shore of Loch Carron, and the fact that this exists could be very useful for educating any politicians and senior civil servants who believe in the ‘can’t be done’ school of government.

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    • For Catherine Gillies:
      Two good points. Probably everyone first imagined that the landslip was at the place that had given way twice before – and it wasn’t. With the persistent heavy rain that the area has had, that really is an achievement we should all recognise.

      And the ‘lean-to roofing’ over, sounds achievably practical. While it would undoubtedly be expensive, it would be nothing like the massive infrastructural costs of, for example, driving a new trunk road up the broad valley floor where the old road used to run – and then tunnelling through to above Butter Bridge.

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  7. Avalanche sheds of the type described are a common feature in the Rocky Mountains in Canada, protecting roads and railway lines, and no doubt in other countries with a similar geography. They do indeed offer a relatively cheap, effective, and fast solution to the landslip problem. Their only drawback is that they are ugly and in a region of outstanding beauty which is constantly under threat from being degraded by other crassly intrusive structures it would be preferable to find a solution more sympathetic to the natural landscape. One such solution would be tree planting of the area lying above the road. It would have an additional benefit in that it would prevent the landslips occuring in the first place rather than just preventing the debris from reaching the road.

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    • Stuart: the ugliness can be mitigated, to some extent, by good design; The impact on the landscape is greatest where there’s a lot of mass concrete on display, but the outer support columns are much less noticeable if they’re steel, and the sloping roof can be designed to host a layer of soil and vegetation (obviously likely to be wiped out if and when there is a slide, but still perfectly feasible whre the incidence is relatively infrequent). The slips on the Rest seem to be distributed over various locations, and hopefully not really frequent at any one spot.

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      • You make a very valid point when you say the slips have occured at various locations- it’s a long stretch of road between the different slip incidents and probably financially infeasible to shield all potentially exposed stretches.
        Might the most reliable/ economic/ practical solution in the long term simply be a case of more rapid debris clearance following each incident?

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        • School defender: I would have thought that the possible use of galleries is limited to certain places on a relatively short stretch of road at the upper end of the east ramp, where the hill above is so steep that there’s a retaining wall of varying height above the road, and it’s this area that holds the real threat of serious danger from above, as elsewhere the risk seems to be limited to debris flows coming off much less steep slopes. Rapid debris clearance seems to be accompanied by perhaps more laborious and time consuming inspection of the slopes above, and this causes delay before the all-clear can be given.

          The big gap in the current logic is that the existing detection systems only result in the warning lights being triggered – I wonder if it’s considered politically suicidal to shut the road when there’s increased risk? Several trunk roads have snow gates, and they don’t attract criticism because people understand that the road would probably be impassable anyway. If this system were to be applied to the Rest there would be an outcry, because the public perception of the real danger is (I think) low, but it would only take one really serious accident to ‘put the cat among the pigeons’ – and my guess is that slide galleries would be the only acceptable option as the way to minimise disruption.

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          • Robert – are you sure that the warning lights are triggered by the detection systems? It is my understanding that they are activated by TrafficScotland/Transerv/whoever when alerts are received from sensors or when the weather forecast means a landslide is more likely.

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  8. http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=cairndow&ll=56.220164,-4.841881&spn=0.024625,0.169086&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&hnear=Cairndow,+Argyll+and+Bute,+United+Kingdom&gl=uk&t=m&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=56.220147,-4.841816&panoid=jb2jxWGkotm9_D0qotVGxw&cbp=11,353.33,,0,2.92&z=13

    is a street map picture on the Glasgow side of the car park.
    it shows the same tree, pole, area of low wall and area of higher wall
    this would indicate no access to lochgoilhead and the slip being on the Glasgow side of the main car park at the Rest?
    Surely this information is basic and simple information that should be accurate?

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  9. Unfortunately, I don’t think planting trees would solve this particular problem. Overlying the bedrock of this steep (30-35 degrees) hillside is a comparatively shallow (1–2 m thick) layer of sandy and gravelly silts and clays, containing everything from small stones to large boulders, covered by a thin layer of peat and soil. According to the geologists, the landslides start when whole rafts many metres across of this inherently unstable material begin to slip down over the underlying bedrock lubricated by the unusual amounts of water. Planting trees would be unlikely to add stability rather than just more weight to the next landslide. The end result would be a lot of trees mixed into future landslides!

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    • Alex

      Tree planting is THE solution. I have been suggesting this for a while. Forest was the climax vegetation here until we destroyed it. On similar topography, slope and rainfall in coastal Norway the soil is stabilised by trees. This is not just about stabilising the soil it is about learning how our resource potential works. by selecting the appropriate suckering species the forest will mechanically hold soil in place and control the amount of water, oh, and improve the depth and quality of the soil to boot. It might be cheaper to compulsory purchase the apprpriate area of land and plant with forest. With appropriate planting style this could look more natural than commercial plantation. It could also be used as a future fuel source, particularly if there are appropritae coppicing species. Finally this could be linked to the nearest communities so they can gain some direct benefit from it. The current A&B Council administration don’t appear to be listening perhaps it is time for a change in May.

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  10. Surely the real answer is to go back to the days, not that long ago, where teams of council workers would walk along the hillsides making regular inspection of the waterways and clearing out any debris – bushes, tress, dead sheep, etc – from them. Landslides seem to have been a fairly recent phenomena, only happening since council cutbacks started to take effect. Now it seems we’re suffering from these every time there’s a couple of heavy showers! If the water has somewhere to go, the hillside doesn’t become waterlogged. Simples!

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    • Teams of Council workers walking along the hillsides? Get a grip Jim, such things don’t exist any more. Remember single status? Those guys were stripped of overtime, pay & even their jobs. Why do you think your Council tax hasn’t increased for 2 years?

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  11. Keith: I’m sure you’re right, and that the ‘existing detection systems’ are a combination of weather forecasts, human eyeballs, the sensors that I recollect have been installed at some ‘hotspots’, and maybe even poor souls plodding around wet and windy mountainsides.

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  12. I wonder how long before our government realise that there needs to be serious investment in upgrading the vulnerable stretches of the A83 over the Rest?. Given the dismal record of successive governments in neglecting the truly dreadful stretch of the alternative A82 route between the Tarbet junction and Glen Falloch (just one short section of single track due for reconstruction anytime soon) I recommend emigration or an invitation to China for some Third World Aid.

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  13. I vaguely remember calling it this once before, Rest and be Thankful Russian Roulette.

    Robert, I doubt anything will be done until a busload of people go over the edge, sad to say.

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    • CSB: I fear you’re right, and it will put our government ministers in a situation far worse than that of Tony Blair when faced with the death of a government scientist.

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  14. Crazy at least the road should be open tomorrow during daylight so that I can deliver your present from Santa. Get in touch with me through newsroom.

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  15. Seriously? You got it for me? I’ll be at Luss Village Hall all day tomorrow (until around 3pm probably) at our Arts & Crafts Fair. You can drop in there if you like.

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  16. As the local councillor for the area, I can confirm that the slip is in my ward and is certainly on the Arrochar side of the Rest and be Thankful. I spend half my life driving back and forward on the A83 and know almost every inch of it by now.

    If you look at the photograph, you will see a barrier on the left hand side of the road. The only place where there is a barrier in this location is on the left hand side of the road as you drive up the hill towards the Rest from Arrochar. The wall on the right hand side also gives it away.

    Another point that appears to have been overlooked is that apart from being in my ward, it is also in the Dumbarton constituency and not the Argyll & Bute constituency so falls within Jackie Baillie’s area and not Michael Russell’s area. The boundary line between the two constituencies runs through the Rest with Michael Russell being to the west and Jackie Baillie to the east.

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  17. Just a thought – I wonder how the cost of ‘making safe’ The Rest and Be Thankful, expressed as a percentage of the cost of the new Forth Crossing, compares with the volume of traffic on this stretch of the A83, expressed as a percentage of the volume over the Forth Bridge; it might concentrate government minds on what’s affordable – and that’s without doing a comparative risk assessment (which I bet would make sorting the Rest look much better value for money than sorting the Forth Bridge)

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  18. Or to express it another way Robert; What would be the reaction of motorists using the Forth Road Bridge if signs were to be erected reading “Warning, increased danger of bridge collapsing when lights flash”?

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  19. That’s a quite pathetic post “doc”. But fairly predictable. Yawn, yawn. ;)

    ps Who do Transerve get their funding from “doc”? ;)

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  20. CSB. So do I just stand at the Hall door and shout CRAZY, or are you going to be the one wearing a flower behind your ear? (Santa didn’t tell me how to recognise you when he asked me to deliver a parcel to you.)

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    • Cough, cough – ummmm ask for Crazy She-Bat. Just about everyone knows who I am! LOL

      Go to where the bookstall is and I’ll be around there.

      Many thanks BTW!

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  21. Landslides are nothing new!! Crikey, a swift look back at the Oban Times will show repeated landslides, and don’t forget that the Callander to Oban railway was eventually closed because of persistent landslides in Glen Ogle (our other roulette route). Climate change and the increase in rainfall might be having an impact – but this is the first landslide (or at least the first newsworthy one) this year, and it has been a torrential year.

    As for the ugliness of these snow galleries, the ones I am thinking of are in the world heritage site of the Chamonix valley, and actually are pretty invisible now that the hillside has claimed the top of them.

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  22. Stephen: The possibilty of realignment in a tunnel through the shoulder from Succoth, to take through traffic off the substandard and probably unimprovable section through Arrochar, became that much less affordable once planning approval was given for the new villa near the filling station. As for Butterbridge, just improving the substandard clearance between the bridge parapets at the bend would be a good idea – but presumably not a priority compared with those stretches of timber ‘health and safety’ fences (RIP) or the rolling programme of Gaelificating all the road signs.

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    • Not for a moment saying it’s practical or affordable. Just like tunnels, that’s all!

      Obviously it would be best to bypass Arrochar as well, however the environmental improvement would be balanced by a big economic hit… (as is happening right now with the road closure.) However that would involve moving the tunnel portal back to Tarbet, which makes things a bit Oslofjordtunnelen, i.e. utterly impractical from a cost point of view.

      Have had many interesting experiences at Butterbridge. Mainly to do with other drivers lacking patience. A double white line and a 50 mph speed limit on the bends might do wonders…

      Avalanche tunnel on the existing alignment, as mentioned above, or intercepting the water that’s causing the trouble uphill of the road and sending it off to Loch Sloy would seem to be two slightly less silly ideas…

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      • Stephen: Suggesting tunnels in Scotland is a bit like Oliver Twist ‘asking for more’; the notion of a tunnel at Succoth was a response to the ‘obstacle course’ through Arrochar, and was nothing to do with a tunnel all the way to Tarbet, just through the shoulder of the hill between the bridge at the head of Loch Long and the railway bridge. The bad bend by the hotel at Tarbet could very easily be bypassed to the south at relatively low cost, no tunnel needed. On the subject of tunnels there’s a case to be made for one to the north of Inveraray, bypassing the accident black-spot bend at Strone Point and also providing a good layby viewpoint.

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  23. Councillor Freeman , now that you’ve claimed ‘ownership’ of the problem , perhaps you will join Councillor Donald Kelly and Jamie McGrigor MSP in demanding action as these road closures are a disaster for the Kintyre community .

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  24. Kintyre 1, your Conservative affiliation is noted. The road closures are a disaster for all communities across Argyll & Bute and not just the Kintyre Peninsula. The Council has demanded action with regards to this problem on a number of occasions over the years. having said that, I am sure that it if was the road to Oban (where Cllr Duncan MacIntyre, the Council’s Transportation Spokesperson lives) or Dunoon (where Cllr Dick walsh, the Leader of the Council lives), the ConDemAll administration would have been shouting a lot louder.

    It should be noted that we have not heard a cheep from the Council’s two Conservative councillors on this issue?

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    • Affiliation has no relevance to this discussion . I haven’t heard a cheep from you Councillor Freeman on this issue .What have you done following this latest disaster ? Councillor Donald Kelly and MSP McGrigor have spoken up for the community they represent and I wish other political representatives would do the same instead of trying to score cheap political points .

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    • Since the A83 is a trunk road, recognised as being of national rather than local importance, and is thus controlled by Holyrood, the engagement of local councillors – though to be expected, and welcome – is not critical. This evening the BBC quotes Transport Scotland as saying: ‘…road authority partners have concluded the A83 should open during daylight hours only, reverting to the diversions…during hours of dark’ I assume that by ‘partners’ they mean the government and the management contractor. Over many decades (witness the shambles of the A82 north of Tarbet) governments seem to have forgotten that the most important ‘partners’ are the road users – who pay handsomely to use it, but customarily have little say in ensuring that it’s adequately managed. Our local MSPs are Michael Russell and Jackie Baillie, the Transport Minister is Keith Brown MSP, and the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Investment is Alex Neil MSP. I think that the three of these people in government, together with the First Minister Alex Salmond MSP, have ultimate responibilty for the provision of a road over the Rest and Be Thankful that’s fit to use.
      We in Argyll are a relatively small and insignificant proportion of this country’s population, and count for little in the political ‘clout’ stakes.
      The repeated occasions when the road’s only deemed unfit for use after there’s a landslip, and closed for an unpredictable spell of time until the management decides it’s safe to use (once again?), are now beyond any semblance of a joke and – if our government can’t or won’t get its act together – we should be investigating the possibilities for referring the matter to the European courts to establish whether these people are holding our lives and wellbeing in contempt.

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  25. I do wonder about the competence of transerv to manage the complexities of this piece of road.
    They seem to be struggling to identify where a landslip is after it’s happened and yet we’re meant to have confidence in their ability to predict it, assess it and repair it, not to mention come up with some workable longer term plan.

    But yes indeed, all credit where it’s due, that the current slippage is not at the site of the works done at previous slippages is a great achievement. Whether this is due to the works or due to the fact that the dangerously unstable top soil there has already slipped and been carried away….who can tell?

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    • From meeting a few Transerv engineers I think they are competent – but they might well have their hands tied by the beancounters, who in the case of the Rest and Be Thankful seem to put a hefty discount on human life (those damned peasants out in the wilderness complaining again? Such damned insolence after all we do for them). Having said that, Transerv do themselves no favours at all by their seeming inability to instal height ‘goalposts’ at the approaches to Connel Bridge, to prevent high vehicles colliding with the overhead tie beams and compromising the structural integrity of the bridge. Anyone ‘inconvenienced’ by the impending overnight closures of this bridge for essential repairs should ask their MSP why the investment in timber health & safety fences (aborted), and rolling gaelification of road signs, is more important than the safe management of Connel Bridge, where there’s an eye-watering detour of 95 miles between Oban and North Connel (or ‘only’ 36 miles between Oban and Fort William)

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  26. Great to find out information about something which affects my life so greatly. I live in Lochgoilhead, work in Faslane, normally a 45 minute drive. I now find that it is taking about 2 hours 20. 27 mile diversion?????? not according to my sat nav nor google maps, More like a 65 mile diversion.
    The road being open in daylight hours will be great but how about being open from 7am so people can get to work??
    I do fully appreciate the work that has gone into clearing the road in what has been horrible working conditions, big thanks to those hard working road clearance guys.

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  27. Here’s an interesting take on unstable hillsides these days – from Lachie Wood.

    His theory is that when there were sheep on the hillsides, shepherds effectively policed the hills, keeping drains and burns clear; and the sheeps’ constant grazing kept vegetation tough and strongly rooted, binding the soil more powerfully than today.

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  28. Derek

    I don’t deny what you say about Norway, with regard to topography, slope and rainfall – I’ve been there and seen it – but the key element you leave out is the geology at this particular, and in particular the combination of very loose sandy and gravelly silts and clays overlaying the bedrock. It is indeed possible that, given time, say 20 years, trees would “mechanically hold soil in place and control the amount of water” and “improve the depth and quality of the soil”, but we are dealing with an immediate problem and one which, until the trees became sufficiently established, might well be exacerbated by the trees adding weight to the material than slips.

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  29. Blethering to two Austrian tourists in a cafe in Lochgilphead this morning, they just couldn’t believe that a main road with a history of slides and rockfalls had no physical protection except for one very localised installation of arrestor mesh. All rather embarrassing – what happened to that tradition of energetic engineering enterprise that helped make this country great? All being concentrated on the second Forth Crossing, perhaps?

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  30. Did my Santa run today, over the Rest and back in good time. However a little better co-ordination of public information would be helpful.
    I checked Traffic Scotland website before leaving home, which stated the Rest would be open fron 08.30 until 1600hrs.Passing through Lochgilphead about 9am the display sign by Kilmory Estate roundabout stated the road was closed.At Inveraray the road was partially coned off saying road closed with diversion signs via Dalmally.
    Thanks to Mr Munro at Londis, we were told that Transerv had said last night(possibly unofficially) they expected the road to open about 10am, so carried on to find the Rest open, meeting the Transerv lorries who had obviously just lifted the signs at the Dunoon turn off.
    On a lighter note, and for Robert; Many years ago I was travelling over the rest when a fellow passenger observed “You know, all these white dots on the hillside are actually specially bred miniature sheep, put there by the Tourist Board to emphasise the grandeur of the scenery”!!

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  31. On leaving Oban today at i.30pm ther was a sign on the outskirts that told us the A83 at the Rest was open. The electronic sign at Dalmally was switched off, but at the \inverary junction there were 2 signs. 1 said the road ahead was closed the other said the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful was closed. After Tyndrum the electronic sign said theA83 was open. The next sign was at A82/A83 junction at Tarbet which was switched off. Was the A83 open to day or not

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  32. So, there is an overburden of soil on top of bedrock. Water seeping into the soil reaches the surface of the rock acting as a lubricant, causing the soil to slide. The remedy lies in removing the water and piping it away and down past the road. A shed would be of little use.

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    • Henri: easy to dismiss ‘a shed’ but not so easy to explain just exactly how to remove ‘the water’ when it’s saturating and overloading the overlying drift material as well as acting as a lubricant on the surface of the bedrock; I think that’s why a culvert was rebuilt to handle greater flow at one place where there was a history of surface material liquifying, starting to flow, choking the existing ditch and culvert and then overflowing onto the road. The advantage of a gallery is that it can take flow over a road without risk of blocking culverts, and can also protect against falling rock – and thus render the road safe to use in bad weather.

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  33. From Billy Thompson on wig-wag signs: Re the landslide on rest 1st Dec, why was the wig sign that is there to warn motorists of this landslide, NOT flashing on the morning that it actually happened?

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  34. From Avril Lockhart: I’ve just checked your website (6.45pm Friday) and was pleased to find out up to date info about the road closure and the fact it would be open tomorrow. 5 minutes previously I looked at Traffic Scotland, which is usually reliable, but there was no mention of the road being opened on Saturday during daylight hours. This is very disappointing as I would have trusted Traffic Scotland and would have altered my traffic plans, but a friend told me to look at For Argyll and luckily you had the correct information. Traffic Scotland needs to be updated regularly.

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    • Avril: It’s even more comfusing than that – just now the Rest is open and the flashing landslide warning lights at the summit, at the Lochgoilhead road end, are off. We are therefore led to believe that there is no danger.

      We are also led to believe that the ongoing danger is so great that the road will remain closed during the hours of darkness, until tuesday at the very earliest.

      We could be forgiven for thinking that the highway authorities don’t really have a grip on the situation, but they’re the experts, and we have to rely on their judgement.

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  35. From Bob Chicken:

    On 28.November the Chair of Tarbert and Skipness CC ,Brian Mearns, sent the attached letter to Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Housing, calling for an independent enquiry into the way in which Transport Scotland has treated the community served by the A83 trunk road in Tarbert.

    The A83 in Tarbert is characterised by its steepness; narrowness (two trucks cannot pass unless one goes onto the sole , narrow pavement); lack of adequate pavements; sharp bend and complex junction at the bottom of the hill into the village opposite a Post Office and Co-op (the largest shop in the village). Increasingly Heavy HGV usage has led this stretch of road to become, in our opinion, a real hazard to the lives and limbs of pedestrians and road users alike.

    Over the years, In order to try and reduce the risks to pedestrians and road users, we have asked Transport Scotland to consider the following solutions:-
    · To restrict a short section of the road to a single wide lane controlled by traffic lights at either end (as at Minard) thus allowing a wide, safe footpath;
    · A pedestrian crossing opposite the Co-op or Post Office;
    · Flashing speed signs at the beginning of the narrow stretch of road;
    Whilst acknowledging that this stretch of road falls below the standard expected of Scotland’s trunk road network the answer has always been a resounding “NO!”

    In order to try and reduce the increasing volume of HGVs passing through the village we have worked with the Timber Transport Group and Argyll and Bute Council to provide a by pass for HGVS. More than 50,000 tonnes of timber passes through Tarbert every year. Last year the bypass was completed. However, we found that various mapping agencies (inc Google maps) now showed the bypass as the main route through Tarbert for ALL traffic. This has had obvious effects of the economy of the village as tourist traffic bypassed us. The solution to this was to be a sign pointing out that Tarbert was a Historic Fishing Port and showing the facilities here. Transport Scotland again said “NO!”. This time their reason was “Tarbert is not a tourist destination facility or attraction ……… it is a place.”

    We are very grateful to our MSP Michael Russell, Regional MSPs and Kintyre and the Islands councillors for their support in this matter.

    Transport Scotland is Scotland’s expert organisation on road safety yet they only seem able to say “NO!”. They never seem to offer solutions, they can only offer refusals. We have seen other communities, with less apparent case for traffic calming measures, get them installed. For this reason we believe that we have reached the end of the road with Transport Scotland and call upon the Minister to appoint an independent person or body to look into Transport Scotland’s response to our road safety and signage concerns.

    Bob Chicken,
    Chair, Roads and Transport,
    Tarbert and Skipness Community Council.

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    • Have you asked for a sign in Gaelic that only 7% of the Argyll population can read? I bet they’d be round next week putting one up. Of course that 7% would know where Tarbert was anyway. Even Tullochgorm has a sign that says “Welcome”. Tullochgorm? It’s half a dozen houses off the A83 just west of Minard.

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  36. No-one seems to have looked at the possibility of allowing light traffic to use the forest track on the other side of Glen Croe during such closures. We don’t know if it is even possible, but nobody seems to be considering it. It might need to operate one way using traffic lights, but it’s better than the diversion.
    Another longer term solution might be to repair the old military road up Glen Croe to be used as another single track contingency route.
    Neither of these would of course be suitable for HGVs or buses.
    As the hillside is not going to go away, perhaps even more radical solutions are needed long term, such as a new route over the hills, perhaps via Glen Kinglas and Inveruglas; or even a tunnel beneath Rest and Be Thankful.

    In the meantime you can get updates on Twitter by following @Scot_TranServ, @KeepPeopleSafe, @argyllandbute, and our account @A83_Scotland.

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  37. A tunnel? Scotland? They don’t do road tunnels in this country, do they? THey might think again if the Holyrood cabinet was shoehorned into a minibus and made to travel the diversionary route between Inveraray and Tarbet in the conditions tonight. It would surely be safer to keep the Rest open – even with the alarm lights flashing and road users signing government disclaimers promising that – in the event of disaster – it would be careless driving not corporate manslaughter.

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  38. Newsroom. I have to admit to being a tad surprised to see our TSCC press release on a feature about the landslides but, perhaps, on second thoughts, it is quite apt. Both problems are the result of poor division of the Transport Scotland budget and, coincidentally, today’s Scotland On Sunday reported that the Scottish Government is planning to spend billions on infrastructure projects.

    Perhaps we should be lobbying our politicians to fight our corner for some of that funding to permanently sort out our trunk roads here in Argyll rather than just accepting the usual make do and mend by the appalling Transport Scotland jobsworths.

    It would certainly be interesting to see if they really can raise enough political muscle to see off the negativity of the Agency That Loves to Say No. If they do then it will be a first for Argyll and Bute.

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    • For Bob Chicken: We published the material as supplementary contextual material to the A83 situation because we thought that was pertinent.

      But we are aware that there were other ways of making it public.

      We’ll happily also publish it as a separate news piece.

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      • No probs with it being published here. I think its relevant. The more we can get folk to challenge Transport Scotland to justify their actions the more likely we are to get improvements here in Argyll.

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  39. I didn’t realise that my comments would be published for all to see till a friend told me this morning?! Anyhow, it all makes good reading. Especially Bob! We made it down the road on Saturday morning having ignored the electronic sign in Lochgilphead which told us that the road was closed.Also a friend had told us that BBC traffic news were saying the road was still closed. We had doubts once we got to Inveraray as the diversion signs were out, but after checking with a local garage we decided to go on. The road was open but once we got to Tarbet I checked the electronic sign and it was still saying that the road was closed. I’m glad we had ignored the signs but what about the folk that didnt and had to do a long and unnecessary detour? It’s okay for locals but what about visitors and tourists who are not sure of the roads. We need accurate information and perhaps one place where we can get a proper update. Surely it wouldnt take much to keep the electronic signs up to date? We also need urgent action on a decent alternative road. Get on with it Bob!

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    • Avril, if you’re referring to me rather than Bob Chicken, two things come to mind: after several days of making a mess of co-ordinating signs, flashing lights and road closures, Scotland Transerv should get their act together if they want the public’s continuing
      support and patience.
      The other perhaps more serious worry is whether the trunk road authority thinks a risk assessment is just an arse-covering exercise (pardon the language) rather than something to ensure that decisions are based on minimising the dangers to road users. The decision to continue the diversions at night in the current weather is arguably putting people at more risk than keeping the road open.
      Of course, Scotland Transerv are at the ‘sharp end’ of events, and the real target for criticism of the handling of enhanced protection against landslips is Transport Scotland and their political masters. It’s down to them that the road is closed AFTER there’s a landslip, and then stays closed long after the material is cleared – as if the actual event changes the rules.
      If they were honest they’d close the road at the start of the risk, i.e. every time they have cause to switch on the flashing warning lights – but they know that all hell would break loose, and they’d really have to apply themselves to mitigating the danger. As this would cost real money they’d rather just continue with the status quo, leaving road users open to real risk. As none of the landslips and rockfalls have caused serious injury (as far as I’m aware) I suspect that the powers-that-be consider that the risk of real disaster is very remote.
      That’s what the skipper of the Titanic thought.

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      • Yes it is you Bob! Is it Transerv we need to contact about the electronic signs being wrong then? I was for calling the police but decided not to bother them. The signs should be correct. We need to prevent too many unnecessary journeys on that horrendous detour. Re another comment earlier, we have been very lucky that no-one has been killed or seriously injured at the Rest during a landslide or on the detour roads. But I think our luck is due to run out. Maybe something will be done about it then.

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  40. How much money was committed to investigative and remedial work on the Forth Road Bridge, to say nothing of the speedy justification of investing in a new Forth crossing? All this based on a possibility that the existing bridge might, repeat might, become unfit for use in a few years time!

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    • Hotbird: One of the joint venture partners in the construction of the second Forth road crossing is American Bridge. They have plenty of experience of rehabilitating big suspension bridges, as well as building them – and one of their projects was as a joint venture partner in the addition of a railway under the road deck of the Tagus bridge, Lisbon. To carry the extra load involved the airspinning of two new additional suspension cables, while keeping the road open across the bridge. The achievement of this makes we wonder if something similar could have been done to resolve the problem of corroding cables in the existing Forth road bridge, at much less cost than building a completely new bridge as well as ‘patching up’ the old bridge. Of course the new bridge effectively doubles the traffic capacity of the crossing, and this might justify the huge cost of what’s been committed – but all the more reason to question the refusal, so far, to invest in anything other than the odd culvert replacement, arrestor net installation, and of course provision of warning signs, on the Rest and Be Thankful. Surely, before the government tackles independence, they should learn how to run Scotland as one country.

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  41. Looking at the state of the A82 now on the Tyndrum webcams, I imagine that anyone on the diversion route won’t be all that happy – especially if they’re heading west then south, and still have the hill between Dalmally and Inveraray to contemplate.

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  42. Im new to the area but having checked the web i see that this road has landslides every year or two. Why does it take so long for such an important road to be re-opened hours that suit people who need to get to work? 7am till 7pm would be great.
    Normally Lochgoilhead to Tarbet is 14.5 miles, with diversion its 69 miles.
    If this overnight closure is about safety then surely the risks of driving an extra 45 miles over poorly treated roads should be taken into consideration?
    Im fortunate that i have been able to get accommodation near where i work but having driven the diversion route over the weekend i would not want to do that every day.
    Is anybody doing this diversion regular? If so, how is it?

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    • Andrew: I can’t imagine anything worse than having to travel that detour regularly; I’m sure that there are others commuting from Lochgoilhead – and that you’d be best to seek them out for advice. Ignore Jake – he’s wrong, anyway – it’s not 3-legged haggis at all, it’s the ancient Scottish ancestors of the ‘Side Hill Walkers’ that inhabited the French Canadian wilderness: animals with their legs longer on one side or the other to cope with mountainsides. They prefer conical hills as they can’t turn around, and tend to panic on the steep slopes above the Rest when they can’t find their way home. They died out years ago in Canada because cross breeding was a disaster, but have hung on in Argyll.

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  43. Ah…..new to the area, eh?
    Well you won’t fully appreciate that landslides happen more frequently at night…..it’s to do with 3 legged haggis scampering around the hills after dark. They get particularly frisky in the period just after St Andrew’s day.
    If they were more like pandas the risk of landslip could be reduced to just 12 hours per year.

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  44. From traffic scotland website:

    Road users are advised the A819 is partially blocked near to Dalmally due to a jack knifed lorry, Police are directing traffic.

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  45. “Scotland Transerv say that the arrangements put in place on Saturday 3rd December (road open daily 0830 to 1600) will continue until the current weather patterns change.”
    That’ll be about end June / July 2012 then?

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