This afternoon has been a game of two halves.
On one hand there has been a team of Scotland Transerv engineers and road workers who have done a superb job to free the hostage to the A83 that is Argyll.
This achievement has been astonishing in the time, with so much against them. They deserve all possible credit we can together give them – and their information flow on the situation has been first class. (There is the matter of the predictable redundancy of the Traffic Scotland website but that is not their responsibility.)
They were visited, as we reported they would be, by Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil MSP.
Unfortunately the politician could not rise to the occasion of need as the men kn the hill had done.
Mr Neil visited the site of the landslip. He also met local business owners, community representatives and councillors to discuss what more can be done to reduce the risk of disruption in future and to update them on plans for an emergency route.
After all of this, the government reported that Mr Neill confirmed that a task force will be set up immediately to oversee progress. The task force will include representatives from all of the key players involved and be chaired by the Transport Minister and will meet on August 15th.
The Minister said: ‘The Scottish Government and Transport Scotland remain determined to deliver an emergency alternative to this lifeline route which serves communities throughout Argyll. We are also developing measures to make the main route safer and less exposed to landslides in future.
‘I fully appreciate their frustration at the ongoing disruption to the local economy, especially at such an important time of the tourist season. We have already allocated significant funding to tackle the problem and, weather permitting, and if we can finalise a deal with private landowners, work will get underway on the emergency route in the coming weeks. And at around the same time, we will extend the length of debris flow netting on the hillside, which will also result in a lifting of the current traffic restrictions.‘
First of all – what exactly is the story here?
We were told that Transport Scotland had come to a decision and that work is starting this month on an emergency diversion of varying descriptions in Glen Croe – to be completed and ready for use by November.
Mr Neil does not seem precisely to have underwritten that information
The Minister’s responses here were action-lite, foregrounding the formation of task force ‘to oversee progress’ with no unequivocal sense of what that ‘progress’ will involve, except a move towards an emergency diversion route.
Other than this, there were only vague mumblings: ‘We are also developing measures to make the main route safer and less exposed to landslides in future.’
This does not mean a permanent solution or the Minister would have said so clearly. When there is popular credit to be had, no politician undersells a score. This need mean no more than additional debris flow netting.
This is yet another line of decoy ducks they think will deceive slomo Argyll. They will be surprised.
Part of what we do involves being aware of the temperature and the pulse of a place on specific issues. Politicians do not live with the soles of their feet receptive to the vibrations of the ground around them – a metaphor close to the problem on the A83.
If they do not understand the need for real action to secure this vital road properly, the initiative may pass from them.
The business community – the tourism sector and the road transport sector – really have had it with the havering. They live with the cost of this and they are neither stupid nor passive.