Scotland Transerv’s job is a good one at the famous hairpin on the old military road at Rest and Be Thankful.
The question is whether this will actually be the emergency diversion route for the landslide prone A83.
Tomorrow’s meeting of the A83 Taskforce – 15th October – may discover whether this or the Forestry Track on the opposite – south – side of Glen Croe will be the chosen route.
If it is to be the old military road – some of whose bridges would be strengthened – it will be a victory for the landowner who holds the key to the progress of this preferred route – already topped and tailed; and who appears to have been engaged in what discretion would describe as ‘hard bargaining’.
Tomorrow – 15th October – is the second meeting for the group charged with overseeing the completion in November of the emergency route. With the choice of route now back in the melting pot, delegates will have some tough questions to ask, with scheduling to November a major issue.
We went to Rest and Be Thankful this afternoon to check out in advance of the meeting the work already done. The meeting should reveal this either to be a reassuring answer to a troubling question [could an artic get around the hairpin?] – or to be surplus to Transport Scotland’s latest requirements.
The photograph above, with the uphill section of the road just visible below on the left, shows the depth of fall the old hairpin engineered, now adapted by Scotland Transerv for vehicles not then dreamed of. The job’s a good one – as this detailed series of photographs should show.
With the best will in the world, it is almost impossible to show the context of the hairpin with the amount of space now created in width and depth at the 180 degree turning point.
This is not yet entirely finished, with more surfacing to be done on the rear and uphill side of the extension at this point – but it looks like real room for a competent driver to get an artic round the hairpin.
The surface that is complete has not been stinted, with something like six inches depth of tarmac laid. It stops a few metres short of the upper side of a gate after the corner at the start of the approach to the hairpin.
This all-but-complete section, while single track, seems wider than the single track main road to Lochgoilhead and is certainly better surfaced.
Back through the car park at the top of Rest and Be Thankful – stopping for personal fuel at the great snack stop [7.00 to 15.00 daily, with a extensive menu of hot and cold fresh food made while you wait and a genuinely first class coffee latte], the next job to do was to check out the point where the forestry track is likely to meet the linking road to Lochgoilhead.
Turning left at the exit from the car park, the colour palette and texture of Loch Restil and its surrounding hills is a timely reminder that, landslides or not, this is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world, worth – in the short term - a diversion to reach.
Minutes down the B828 towards Lochgoilhead is the entrance to Forestry Commission Scotland’s Open Access to Ben Donich. There is a car park in here and if you walk up the forest track you come to a generous junction where two forestry routes meet.
One of these is the road down Glen Croe – the other candidate to act as an emergency diversion when the A83 is closed with another landslide. The uphill fork in the track goes to Gleann Mor.
Here is an immediate question. Forestry roads are traditionally very robust – with the strength of truck and the weight of timber to be hauled out in each individual load. They are equally traditionally unmetalled roads. The maintenance issues with tarmac would not suit the forestry commission, the owner of the track, for its primary purpose of timber haulage. So if this route is the chosen option, one assumes that the additional cost of strengthening culverts, hillside excavation and buttressing will be, at least in part, offset by the lack of need for tarmac surfacing.
The track makes it way back out on to the Lochgoilhead road, suggesting that it will take little work to lay an unmetalled entrance to it, for traffic to come and go both to the A83, just down the road at the top of Rest and Be Thankful; or south to Lochgoilhead on the B828.
Tomorrow we may hear which route it is to be.
If it is to be the forestry track, then the work already done at the lower eastern entrance above Ardgartan can serve either the old military road or the forestry track; but the work done at the hairpin section at the high western end can serve only the old military road.