Major Argyll business figure engages directly with A83 issue

Donald Clark of the renowned George Hotel in Inveraray, a senior and major businessman in Argyll, has read and digested the various schemes proposed by Transport Scotland for the A83 ans says that, while they are comprehensive and thought provoking, he feels strongly that they are way off the mark.

He says: ‘The preferred option at the moment is the cheapest option. But is this a wise choice? I think not.

‘Their option is to use a road deemed unsuitable over 70 years ago as a diversion route and could in the worst scenario be a 40 minute delay using a convoy system.

‘I cannot accept this as a forward thinking and long term solution to what has been a serious problem to the life and commercial wellbeing of a large part of Argyll over the last 8 to 10 years.’

Mr Clark suggests that there is another simpler option which should be considered – one which permanently solves the problem at an affordable price.

‘In simple layman’s terms there is an ongoing problem with 5 gullies and a large area that is unstable at the bottom end of the problem zone that may slip and could end up sliding into a large depression.

‘Including that area we have to provide overhead cover in 3 x 10m, 1 x 20m and the bottom area of 80 to 100 metres which have had slides.

‘You would then require a total canopy cover of 3 x 20m, 1 x 40m and one of 120 m at the bottom end to fully
protect the A83.

‘I might add that the only spillages onto the road have been at the top 4 sites so in all probability the bottom section will not be required. It seems to be adequately protected by the present barriers but if needs must it could be done at a later date.  This could also be the case if any gullies cause problems in the future

Donald Clark has contacted a good friend of his of many years standing who is an internationally renowned structural engineer – John Addison, who exposed on BBC television the Edinburgh scams on compulsory house repairs. He has asked Mr Addison  -  to to have a brief look at the overall picture and to come up with his suggestions and give a basic costing. Mr Clark is certain that this will be a fraction of the various schemes proposed by Transport Scotland; and Mr Addison is back in Scotland any day now.

Mr Clark says: ‘My own thoughts are to deal with the top 4 sites.

  • Dig 4 to 5 metres into the hillside to give the width to facilitate the works with a minimum of disruption ( we’re well used to over a year of lights and single file traffic).
  • Simplify the design with the rocks and muck being shed above the road using canopies and not as the design of the 1.2km canopy option which has the debris being run under the road with the potential of blockage [Ed: our emphasis] – and this is a much more expensive design to execute.
  • By using pre-stressed beams built off site, the disruption caused during construction would be kept to the minimum.
  • With random rubble to blend in the entrances and exits it will have less of a visual impact than the netting that has already been erected.

‘The use of a much simpler design would have a dramatic effect on costs, a speedier delivery and need less than 100m of canopy cover – as opposed to the 1.2km recommended in the feasibility study.

‘This radically changes the choice.This plan is cost effective and will give huge savings on the current schemes.

‘The thought provoking idea of de-trunking the Rest is an interesting idea but is a non starter.

‘Building a new trunk road either through Glen Fyne or Kinglas would add at least 30 mins in journey time and put extra pressure on the already stretched and poor section of the A82.

‘A bit of a red herring and how much did that part of the study cost? ‘

Mr Clark has been up to the Rest already this morning and had yet another close look at the problem areas. His analysis is that there are three relatively small slippage areas which could be easily diverted over the A83.

It is both fun, refreshing and constructive to see an original mind with practical knowledge setting itself to this challenge.

Donald Clark is interested in having these thoughts circulated for responses and perhaps other ideas that these provoke. So comments, as usual, will be very welcome.

This is a collective problem and it will take ideas and pressure from everyone to get it sensibly resolved.

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12 Responses to Major Argyll business figure engages directly with A83 issue

  1. Donald Clark mentions the ‘worst scenario’ for a convoy system using the emergency diversion along the old road involving a 40 minute delay.
    This time lag is approaching the extra time taken (assuming no major traffic holdups on Loch Lomondside) to go around by Tyndrum & Dalmally, and it would be rather ridiculous if the newly refurbished emergency diversion turns out to involve more delay than using the ‘traditional’ diversion.
    Next summer might be the testing time, when the A82 is due to be closed for weeks at Pulpit Rock.

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  2. Donald Clark…..5th generation hotelier from the George Hotel,should be on the Task Force.His knowledge and invaluable experience of all seasons travel and tourism in this area,cannot be ignored and must be taken on board as a cost effective solution to finally sort this problem out.
    We are now in 2013,will this be the year that we have the final solution?

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  3. Its beyond belief that we are putting tourists and business users in a position that after driving for hours to visit the area, they then face a further delay to their destination or that they have to choose another destination that doesn’t include delays and long detours or worse case senario being swept away during a land slide.

    Just last weekend a leading Scottish travel writer visiting and reporting on the area in a very positive way during his stay ended the report with a tweet along the lines of “flashing lights on the rest and be thankful for land slide – hope we make it”

    Great reviews on the tourism businesses he visited to end with this is just letting down the businesses hard work and effort.

    Glad to see Donald Clark supporting both business and tourism and yes agree with Peter he should be on the committee representing tourism businesses interests.

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  4. Could I just point out that I’ve been saying on For Argyll for some months now exactly what Mr Clark has now said about the ‘relief road’?

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  5. Mr Clark should stick to running his hotel. His idea to dig 4 – 5m into an already unstable hillside is a non starter! I am a retired geotechnical engineer by the way

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      • The A83 is through Glen Croe is a fine example of a road built in entirely the wrong place (like many others in Highland Scotland). However the long term remedy is something else. I can see where Transport Scotland are coming from – i.e. they have made improvements to the old Military Road and created a feasible if not ideal diversion route at a cost of £2.5m, so if a low-cost solution is opted for on the A83, and failures are reduced significantly, but may occasionally occur, then the diversion route is always there.

        Unfortunately the ideal risk-free option in road construction is rarely the cheapest or most cost-effective. However you did ask what my preferred solution and I would say the blue route corridor (noted in Jacobs Report as having no risk from landslide) running parallel to the old road closer to the river then swinging across the site of the old croft at High Glen Croe and ascending the valley head in a series of open sweeping hairpin bends. This is accepted engineering practice in coutries like the Alpine countries, Norway etc. and avoids the need for tunnels, galleries, canopies and all of these highly expensive structural solutions.

        However this only my personal opinion and no doubt there are objections to this due to land-severance,and environmental, ecological and landscape issues.

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  6. A “canopy” is suggestive of the type of construction that would keep the sun off the windows of the George Hotel. Any covering of that nature on the road would be a seriously engineered structure. The method of support would not only have to bear the weight of the structure itself but the possibly considerable weight of debris that lands on it. A look at the subsiding state of the westbound carriageway just top side of the existing works gives an idea how impractical that exercise would be without significant reinforcing on the valley side of the road. My preferred solution Robert? Unfortunately I can’t think of one that they would contemplate paying for. Sorry.

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    • Keith (Dave?) – I’m sure that by ‘canopy’ Donald Clark is thinking of the sort of galleries that are so common (and obviously affordable) all over the place in mainland Europe. Their construction ranges from traditional masonry arch on the old ones through mass concrete post-and-slab to steel post and concrete slab.
      Obviously they have to be founded on adequate bearing ground, but I’m sure the geology of the Rest is found elsewhere in the world where galleries have been built.

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  7. I’m surprised that Dave as a geotechnical engineer doesn’t differentiate between unstable surface soil ,shingle and debris and the solid base rock. The slope angle indicates that the core rock is totally stable and what is being proposed is 3 x 30 metre canopies to carry any landslide material over the A83 and this reinforced concrete canopy/gallery would be more than a tenth of the length of the red option at 1.2km length which is costed at £100 million and of a far simpler design. I’m trying to find a long term solution to this 10 year plus problem at an affordable price. It would be similar to dozens of such designs I see in the southern Pyrennes which I visit regularly. Robert Wakeham hits the nail on the head. Quote “Galleries that are common in Europe and obviously affordable”.

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    • I can almost guarantee that any “rock” found close to the surface i.e the 4 – 5m suggested will be in a highly weathered and jointed condition – and will behave when exposed very like a soil. I have seen similar “rock” exposed at Stromeferry, Loch Ness-side, and in the Isle of Skye, where a major landslip occurred after the excavation into supposedly solid “rock” – as it turned out the weathering was in excess of 10m deep.

      Why are you quoting the red option? I was favouring the blue option.

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