Today [29th November]was a busy day on the A83 at the landslide-prone Rest and Be Thankful and on the old military road directly below it.
Everywhere you looked there were Scotland Transerv yellow jackets, photographing and monitoring, while men and machines worked below on readying the old military road to serve as the emergency diversion route.
As these photographs show, the surfaced section is still where it stopped when the private landlord decided to caw canny and refuse to sign any agreement.
All efforts – since this stand-off was resolved a couple of weeks ago – have gone into doing the preparation works on the next section so that the resurfacing will literally be the icing on the cake.
There is a major culvert in preparation; and ditches and drains are being worked to protect the stability of the upgraded road.
Hard standings are being prepared at the side of the old road to take machines ready to support the serial tasks in the surfacing when it starts.
You can see the already surfaced section snaking down the icy hill and stopping at the exit from the forest section owned by Forestry Commission Scotland.
You can see the purposeful stages of preparation at several points west of this point – and you can see a stout stone bridge built for the original military road.
The estimate is that it will be ready in 12 weeks time – when the worst of the winter it was promised to protect against is over. But that should take nothing away from the nature of the work being done by the men on the ground and by Scotland Transerv.
It was made known yesterday, as we reported then, that the latest road maintenance contracts are now in place, with the lifting of the judicial suspension on the decisions.
Scotland Transerv has lost the contract for the north west – Argyll and the Highlands, and is moving to the south west, where it is tkaing over that contract from Amey. Bear Scotland, which preceded Scotland Transerv here, is coming back – in what seem like nothing more than an expensive and convoluted way for Transport Scotland to share the major contracts around between the preferred contractors. The road miles involved in the north west contract are around twice as many as those for the south west contract.
However, set aside the arcane procedures of government, a worry was that Argyll would lose the expertise of the Scotland Transerv team, built up around the constant problems with the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful.
A handover procedure between contractors has been initiated by Transport Scotland, has now begun and will run until the formal contract date of 1st April 2013.
This reassurance is supported by what actually happens on the ground with the men who do the work. Most of them simply stay where they are and transfer to the employment of the incoming contractor under TUPE arrangements.
It may well be that many of them worked here for Bear in its former corporate incarnation.
Full records are handed over between contractors but should any problems arise, they seem to consult each other readily.
What we need to do now is keep our fingers crossed that the next 12 weeks do not produce prolonged heavy rain or snow with a quick thaw. Both of these are the conditions that bring down the hillside on the helpless A83 and close the door to and from Argyll.
The job on the old military road is not the job Argyll needs to be done; and it has been poorly managed by Transport Scotland, which is seeing Argyll face another vulnerable winter.
But this road will offer some degree of temporary relief and the good news is that it’s job that is clearly being well and conscientiously done – and that is very good to see.