Contracts for Scotland’s major roads maintenance to go ahead

[Updated below 29th November] Following the lifting of the court suspension of the enacting of the ‘musical chairs’ contract awards for some of Scotland’s roads, Transport Scotland has made the formal awards previously announced.

Scotland Transerv is losing the  824 mile north west contract – which includes Argyll – to Bear Scotland and, in turn, takes over from Amey the responsibility for the 443 mile south west contract.

It was Amey which had issued the legal challenge leading to the suspension of the planned contract awards.

The new contracts are to come into operation on 1st April 2013.

For Argyll has asked Transport Scotland to confirm:

  • whether or not the work to ready the old military road in Glen Croe to serve as an emergency diversion when the A83 is closed with landslips will be completed by the existing contractor – Scotland Transerv;
  • whether or not any change of contractor to complete this job would affect the as yet unspecified delivery date of the emergency road?

29th November update

In a press release, Transport Scotland say:

‘Norrie Westbrook, Scotland TranServ Joint Venture Board Director, said:

‘ “Scotland TranServ is committed to ensuring the mobilisation period is handled in a timely and professional manner. We will work closely with the current operating company until the hand over date to ensure a seamless transfer for staff and the travelling public.”

‘ The contracts are being awarded following a rigorous assessment and tendering process that sought best value for the public purse while ensuring high quality delivery.

These contracts for the west, which run for five years with scope for extending for a further five years, will bring improvements to the delivery of trunk road maintenance in Scotland.

‘ Both Operating Companies will be responsible within their Unit for inspecting the trunk roads to ensure the routes remain safe and well maintained. General maintenance activities such as salting and snow clearing; grass cutting and weed control; gully cleaning and the repair of street lighting and traffic signals will also come under their remit.

‘These contracts come into effect from 1 April 2013 with BEAR and Transerv beginning their mobilisation period immediately to ensure a smooth handover.’

Commentary: In an article on 22nd November 2012, we noted that the National Road Safety Markings Association had claimed in a new report that the situation with markings on Scotland’s roads is a crisis of public safety due to falling levels of maintenance. The report asserted that there was no system in Scotland’s roads maintenance for keeping road markings in good order.

We  note that in the contractual obligations listed above, there is no mention of road markings. It is unarguable that this is a serious safety issue in night driving where, particularly against the light of oncoming traffic, road margins cannot be identified.

There are sections of the A83 trunk road [covered by the north west contract] – along the upper section of Loch Fyne, for example, where the road is narrow, winding, with drops on the shoreside near the road margins – and where the road margins themselves are degraded in places.

Now that this issue has been brought to the attention of the public as well as of Transport Scotland, we suggest that the omitted obligation be dealt with in an addition to the contract. The current unsafe situation cannot continue; and the report in question makes it clear that this is a Scotland-wide issue and not one confined to the unfortunate Argyll.

We  not too that, while the contract handover date is 1st April  2013, both companies are to commence their mobilisation period immediately.

The date of 1st April should reassure Argyll that the old military road will be completed  by Scotland Transerv – with sub-contractors employed on the work who would  not be involved in the distraction handover preparations.

We also imagine that the political consequences of any further delay to this put-by solution to the unreliability of the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful will be unacceptable. That is a significant security.

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