Scotland Transerv loses Argyll and the Isles road routes – and the A83 emergency route is…?

Transport Scotland has changed the area responsibilities for Scotland’s roads – for whatever reason.

Scotland Transerv has lost the contract for the road routes in Argyll and Bute and is now to look after the south west of Scotland. Bear Scotland is to take responsibility for the north west area which includes this part of the world.

Where does this leave the emergency diversion route for the A83?

Quite where does this latest fiddling around leaves the emergency route for the A83 is hard to say – because this project is now in complete disarray.

Transport Scotland has today admitted that  – as we revealed yesterday – it does not in fact have any agreement in place with the landowner whose territory includes the old  military road.

In La La Land, this has produced a narrative which declares that Transport Scotland has not yet ‘come to any decision’ as to which of the two candidates to be the emergency diversion route in Glen Croe – the old military road or the forestry track – will be chosen.

The work prematurely done is being spun as ‘providing common access to both potential routes’ – blatantly not the case in respect of the hairpin at the high west end, delivering to the car park at Rest and Be Thankful.

It is against the topography for this to be an access to the forestry track on the southern hillside of the glen – or not without expensive and unnecessary engineering as a face saver.

The Scotland Transerv engineers assessed the forestry track as the least viable of the two possible routes under consideration as an emergency diversion when the A83 gives way to yet another landslide.

There will be much  more work to be done on it:

  • in preparation for surfacing;
  • in upgrading the many culverts;
  • in working on the uphill and downhill sides of a slope possibly steeper than the northern one across which the A83 runs and equally prone to landslides;
  • in facing the likelihood that the engineering work to ready this track for use will itself trigger landslides;
  • in engineering an exit into the Lochgoilhead road.

Transport Scotland are to announce the latest ‘final decision’ on this route on Monday, which means at the meeting of the A83 Task Force at Arrochar.

We understand that  the new Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is to attend.

This will be intended as a decoy to deflect the focused anger of the Task Force – who had to seek this meeting – at this latest debacle for Argyll at the hands of Transport Scotland. They may find that the minds of the Task Force members are more focused on the issue in hand.

In our view, the likelihood is a major win for the landowner, with confirmation on Monday that the old  military road is to be the emergency diversion route after all.

The corporate irresponsibility of starting major works of this kind, as Transport Scotland has done here -  without an agreement with the landowner in place, beggars professional credibility.

As we have said from the start, this premature action has left the department in an impossibly weak negotiating position. And they themselves rolled in the barrel they are now lying across.

  • They can pay the landowner whatever he demands.
  • They can leave Argyll with no alternative access in times of landslide for another winter, with the volume of work – and cost – of preparing the forestry track for such service,

Either way, public money gets torched.

Transport Scotland is a joke department but the joke is on Argyll and the Isles.

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19 Responses to Scotland Transerv loses Argyll and the Isles road routes – and the A83 emergency route is…?

  1. The government needs to ‘come clean’ with whatever’s causing the problem with the land agreement (and to claim commercial confidentiality would be to invite extremely sharp criticism).
    They’re needing to get on with providing a diversion route without delay, and surely this explains the start of work on the old road before all the t’s were crossed and i’s dotted with the landowner. I wouldn’t blame them for that, and if the landowner is ‘holding them to ransom’ we’ll be the ultimate victim – and couldn’t compulsory purchase be the order of the day, rather than a landowner and bunch of lawyers enriching themselves at our expense?
    With regard to the renewed trunk road regional management contract being won by BEAR, fair enough – don’t all but the most senior staff remain in place, transferring from the one consortium to the other? It’s on the record that BEAR lost money when they originally held this contract, and it would be interesting to know how Scotland Transerv have fared.

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      • You surely can’t be serious – the promised A82 improvement at Pulpit Rock is now committed – and dependent on the road being closed for some weeks next summer for preparatory work. So to delay provision of a viable emergency route for the A83 in Glen Croe until the end of 2014 would be political suicide.

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  2. someone must be making money somewhere. there seems to be strange goings on afoot here. bear,s name came about by companys joining forces to win the contracts the first time round so they could cover a bigger geographical area. bear stands for (spelling could be more iffy than normal here) babtie,ennstone and ringway. in argyll ennstone went to the wall just recently and have been taken over by breedon aggregates. the man that is the m.d. for breedon aggs west region is alan mckenzie the same man that was at the top for bear and ennstone west region, dividing his loyalties neary equally. the result of one man being at the helm of two fairly substantial companys (for this area) could only in my opinion lead them to disaster. and it did! surely companys of this size need 100% focus. point1: mr mckenzie certainly made money out of it. point2: how can they call the new company “bear” when ennstone makes up part of the name from the original”bear” has gone burst? point3:how can these companys give us, the tax payer value for money? every time the contracts change its all new lorries,diggers and machines. we must be paying for that one way or another!

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  3. the obanite, you have triggered my memory, does this not go back to the First Minister for Scotland Donald Dewar when they privatised many public services. The maintenance of trunk roads went to two private firms, BEAR and AMIE (the names might be wrong but they were the first letters of each company which was formed). Some parts of Scotland were then gritted by three different organisations travelling over the same roads to get to their patch. Totally destroyed the economies of scale for some councils for road maintenance. Would I be wrong to blame the state of roads to some degree from that decision. Then there was PPP, PFIF and line your own pockets schemes. Still waiting for open and transparent investigation to those schemes, didn’t John Sweeney promise to do this if SNP gain power and ABC Schools Ltd is still to be fully audited for transparency.

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      • Thank you, it was definite a black comic opera in the Stirling area for what I can recall. Many issues we face now go back a long way, its not a singular political party issue but a lack of vision, short term gain to climb the greasy ladder of power and wealth, no political party has the monopoly of those traits.

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        • Absolutely. And a large part of the problem is that we have a short termist political system where no government can or will lay down long term strategic developments.
          They can count on no more than 5 years. When they’re new, it takes them two years to understand what they should be doing, then they have one year to start doing what’s possible and after that they’re into not losing votes and campaigning for another term.
          If they get in again, they ought to be able to get going quickly but they tend to be complacent by then and start coasting – and they cannot plan beyond 5 years.
          We have a political system that does not fit the speed of change in today’s world and is driven by divisive party politics that is now an expensive and wasteful obstruction to the stable policy and strategic long term planning we need.
          The challenge no one has any interest in is exploring a way of governing that would bin the damaging weaknesses of the historic system and maintain democracy and renewal.

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  4. According to today’s Herald Amey have identified glaring errors in the tender process and are legally challenging losing the southwest contract to a higher bidder (Scotland Transerv) after Transport Scotland deemed their low bid to pose an unacceptable level of financial risk to the government.

    Shades of the West Coast rail franchise bidding debacle? I wonder if the same ‘glaring errors’ will be claimed (or discovered) to infect the northwest contract.

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  5. ‘glaring errors’ are they just being called errors. Before the financial collapse if you missed the first gravy train there was one just coming round the corner why complain. The budgets have been slashed so there’s a bun fight to catch those very few gravy trains left. “As thick as thieves” and “when thieves fall out” spring to my mind.

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    • On re-reading the Herald piece it would appear that Amey might have been the lowest bidder on the Northwest contract, as well – so all the more reason for them to object strongly to having been passed over.
      Amey, unlike Scotland Transerv and BEAR, is seemingly one company rather than a joint venture – but is owned by the Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial (which might have some bearing on the government’s attitude, but then why prequalify them for bidding if there were any serious doubts about them.)

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      • Robert: the Herald article suggests that the problem with the Amey bid was that it was just too low and this triggered concerns that they would not be able to service the contract on such a low bid. This was the exact opposite of what happened with the West Coast line fiasco. Tenders don’t have to be awarded on price with the winner always being the lowest bidder. I would not have thought that Amey would have been discriminated on because of their ownership. It will be interesting to see if Amey win – my guess is that they won’r win as they would need to show that their bid conveyed an equal level or risk compared to the winning bid.

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        • Yes, in one sense the exact opposite, but in another this seems just like Firstgroup’s bid for the West Coast trains – both companies have plenty of experience, neither was ‘born yesterday’ – they both seem to have contended that they bid competitively on the basis of the tenders designed by DfT and Transport Scotland.
          Agreed that tenders don’t have to be awarded to the lowest bidder, but Amey seem to be quite reasonably challenging the decision and we need clarification if their tenders are deemed to be too risky. The suspicion is that Amey have either spotted a ‘fault’ in the tender specification that enables them to put in lower bids, or have qualified their bids in a way deemed too risky by the government.

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  6. Oh my goodness. I wish people would research a subject before they comment on things they know nothing about.

    For a start, BEAR is a company in its own right, headed by a team of directors. None of these directors are employed by any other company.

    BEAR is then “owned” by three shareholder. Jacobs (formally Babtie and now the largest engineering consultancy in the world), Breedon (formally Ennstone, now the largest independant quarry company in the UK) and Eurovia (formally Ringway, which is part of Vinci, the world largest construction company who employ 185,000 people worldwide and have a tunrover of £30Bn). So i dont think they have any problems.

    BEAR itself made profits for the past 5 years, so they must know what they are doing.

    With regards to the new kit – it doesnt matter if you change company, new gritters and trucks would need to be bought every 7 years anyway otherwise they would breakdown (common sense).

    Come on guys – stop writing jibberish!!!

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    • SO – it’s fair enough for you to adopt the ‘high ground’, but BEAR did lose money the last time they had the northwest contract, and with your expert knowledge perhaps you could comment on the situation with Amey challenging at least one of the contract awards? As for ‘new kit’, doesn’t the replacement frequency depend on the degree of use – is specialised gritting & snow-clearing equipment really in need of replacement at the change of contract or could this be an example of lack of continuity inflating the cost of these contracts?
      People who comment on something they accuse others of ‘knowing nothing about’ presumably consider themselves to be an authority on the subject, so we’d all benefit from your further thoughts on this contract.

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      • …and your understanding of “pathos” as a tool in Scottish humour should exclude you from your various trolling comments….no?? there’s hardly a subject on here that you have not commented on, all with authority? I think not. It’s a pity that you and easdale could not be placed on the A83 , covered in petroleum from air, set alight and give us all a bit of peace:)

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  7. According to today’s Herald, Transport Scotland has now been forced to suspend re-allocation of two trunk road maintenance contracts, following court action by Amey.
    This really does look as if there could be a Holyrood version of Westminster’s ‘West Coast Trains’ debacle in the making, to add to the non-progress in creating the emergency diversion route at the Rest.

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