Progress on addressing A82 Pulpit Rock problems

Transport Scotland has just announced that it intends to award a £9.2 million contract to McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd in respect of the overdue address to A83 Pulpit Rock bottleneck.

The press release says:

‘Subject to the mandatory standstill period, work is expected to start in the  spring and last for around 12 months.

‘The project is set in a challenging rural landscape and will see almost half a kilometre of new road, including a new viaduct running parallel to the shoreline, built. The road will also be widened to allow vehicles to pass more easily. This will bring to an end over 30 years need for traffic lights at this location.’

Transport Minister, Keith Brown says: ‘The A82 Pulpit Rock scheme sits within one of the most unique and scenic landscapes in Scotland that brings many visitors to Loch Lomond. We fully recognise delivery will not be without its engineering challenges.

‘Our commitment to improve the traffic flow at Pulpit Rock is unwavering and, on completion, this project will bring real benefits for businesses and communities in the Highlands and Islands, not least the haulage industry. This is why I am pleased the announcement our preferred contractor shows, at long last, Pulpit Rock will have a road befitting its setting and importance.

‘Throughout the procurement process emphasis has been placed on minimising the impact on communities and businesses. I have tasked Transport Scotland to ensure this continues to remain a key focus throughout construction.’

The operational information in the press release is as follows:

‘The construction of the new viaduct and the cutting of the rock on the landward side of the road will require the A82 to be closed in each direction for a period of up to 14 weeks between 1st October 2013 and 6th January 2014.

‘Suitable advance warning of any other short term closures required as part of the works will be provided to allow road users and businesses to plan ahead.

‘We will work with the contractor to ensure that all closures are kept to the minimum necessary to carry out the works safely and efficiently.’

Note: Information on the Pulpit Rock improvements as well as other work planned for the A82 over the coming months is at the Transport Scotland website here.

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32 Responses to Progress on addressing A82 Pulpit Rock problems

  1. “Transport Scotland has just announced that it intends to award a £9.2 million contract to McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd in respect of the overdue address to A83 Pulpit Rock bottleneck.”


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  2. Comedy solutions brought to you by the Scottish Government; a viaduct around the the rock will result in higher vehicle speeds, more dangerous overtaking behaviour and the same hazardously short sightlines as before. Any other competent roads authority in europe would be straightening the road by boring a tunnel.

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    • db – the obvious idea of a tunnel was fully discussed at the time of the public information session at the Ardlui Hotel a couple of years ago.
      The explanation for not opting for a far less tortuous and visually damaging alignment was that construction of the south portal, literally on the existing road, would have caused far greater disruption to existing traffic than the preparation works for the viaduct ‘landing point’ – to the extent that this was a major design consideration.
      However, I have no recollection of a period of closure of the existing road for up to 14 weeks being mentioned (I have 6 weeks in my mind, but this might not be accurate).
      At 14 weeks it really does need a credible explanation of whether the right option has been selected – whether it would have been impossible to complete the disruptive phase of the south portal works within something approaching this timescale, with all other tunnel work undertaken from the north portal, where there’d be operational space clear of the existing road.
      If a maximum 14 weeks closure of the A82 next winter proves to be optimistic then there’ll be some hard questions to answer.

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    • Yet more moans. db. No matter what the Scottish government would do you would be wanting to criticise it. The two main problems at the Rest and Pulpit Rock ARE BEING ADDRESSED.
      How long has this been a problem? For generations. I speak as an indigenous tourist (from Dumbarton), one of the many from the urban belt who likes Argyll, who regularly spends money in the local businesses in Argyll, who encourages many thousands of others across the world (through internet travel forums) to visit Argyll and its wonders and who is being relieved that at last something is being done about these problems.
      Yes, short term problems may result but long term solutions will be achieved and that will be good for all.

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      • The lights have been a ‘temporary measure’ since at least the 1970s, possibly before; a wide road following the contour of the rock will have an absurd radius likely to cause accidents, alternatively the road arcing out over the loch to give a radius allowing speeds similar to the rest of the improved section to the south will look ridiculous and unsightly in the middle of a National Park.

        You don’t go through the Pulpit rock, you re-align the road with a tunnel heading south before the rock and beneath the railway, emerging about 400 metres later to rejoin the A82. The works for this can be carried out without disrupting the existing road at all. I’d take a bet that the economic cost of shutting the A82 would pay for the difference between a tunnel and a viaduct several times over.

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  3. I can confirm that the proposal was to close the A82 for 14 weeks. Along with the local Community Council, I attended the presentations at Ardlui and argued against this plan. If there is a land slip on the A83 when the A82 was closed, it would be a disaster for the West Highlands and the Kintyre Peninsula.

    There is virtually no support locally for the Pulpit Rock works. Why spend all that money on removing one set of traffic lights when investment is desperately needed on the road between Ardlui and Tarbet? I can drive from Loch Lomond to Helensburgh and go through three sets of traffic lights but there is no suggestion that they should be removed. Most drivers do not think twice about stopping at a set of traffic lights.

    If I was driving 70 miles to Oban and having to stop at one set of traffic lights for one minute at Pulpit Rock, I would think nothing of it on my 1 hour 40 minute drive.

    The local view is that this is a total waste of money.

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    • But what is the view of those who are not local but still use that road? You really are clutching at straws here to have a pop at the Scottish government for having the cheek to spend the money on improving a road which has, at this point, been a major bane in the life for tourists and hauliers alike. These improvements are necessary.
      What would you rather do – spend it on a new nuclear weapons system to aim at no-one in particular save that it makes you feel good to be ‘defended’?

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  4. I’m with db on this one. A tunnel would have allowed the lochside to be opened as a tourist area. A double bonus as drivers and visitors would gain from it.
    I dread to think what this viaduct will look like perched on the Bonnie Banks.
    Why do we never seem to see beyond the immediate problem in Scottish planning?

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    • The Transport Scotland website has the Pulpit Rock Improvement Environmental Assessment, which explains why they discounted the tunnel option, and attempts to show what the viaduct will look like.

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      • What a ghastly structure; the reason they don’t want to build a tunnel is cost. The cited tunnel design only addresses Pulpit rock itself rather than a more holistic realignment north-south. Of course the tunnel described would cause more than 14 weeks of road closure, only an idiot(or a civil servant) would suggest it; a tunnel on the route I describe above would not require any road closure, and perhaps a couple of months of trafficlight controlled delays while the tunnel was connected to the existing road.

        What is the cost of having the A82 closed for 3.5 months(or more if there are technical difficulties)? The road closure assessment is silent on this matter, and treats the consequences of the Rest being closed by landslip at the same time with similar flippancy. The report describes the A82 closure occurring out of the tourist season, so in autumn and winter; exactly when the risk of the A83 being closed by landslip is highest.

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  5. The intellectual rigour of commentators like db is clear to see with his visceral detestation of the Scottish government.

    Any competent roads authoriy in Eurrope would have built a tunnel he opines. Mnnn smart fellow , civil engineer, quantity surveyor, geologist, and arbiter of European road authority capabilities, an observer of some substance obviously.

    Yr havin a laff db.

    Personally, I think it’s excellent that nearly £10m is being invested in this much needed infratructure investment. Well done Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government.

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    • I wasn’t aware that Transport Scotland recruited exclusively from the SNP; is this in preparation for 2014? I’m an engineer, not a geologist, but I can read a map and read documents telling me the approximate cost of tunneling; these are the only tools I need to dismiss this scheme as a shabby bit of cheeseparing, building an ugly concrete bridge in the middle of a National Park while blocking a trunk route for 3.5 months, a closure which has not been costed. How can an objective decision be made here if the cost is not known, even approximately?

      If someone proposed closing the M8 for 3 weeks to resurface it there would be riots, yet apparently the A82 is just for tourists and can be closed for months; that’s all right then.

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    • Willie, such sarcasm is unwarranted – the documents do read as if the standards for this bit of road improvement have been set fairly low – maybe in the interests of slotting it into the infrastructure budget now rather than God know’s when in the future.
      But the proof of the pudding might lie with the accident statistics in years to come, on a tight radius trunk road bend on a viaduct that will encourage the formation of ice before the rest of the road surface freezes.

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    • Willie, I have been a member of a political party for most of my life and many years ago was active, including very briefly being a branch organiser. I thought I had ambitions beyond that too. The reason I got out was that it became clear that the dominant feature of Scottish politics, when viewed from inside the parties, is a pathological psychosis which manifests itself as acute paranoia combined with Pavlovian hatred of the other side. FMQs is a sanitised, Comic Cuts version of the scary real deal I saw at local level.

      Let the scales fall from your eyes, Willie; not every criticism of a government department’s action is driven by that madness. Criticism can be a positive influence; it should be encouraged.

      Having said all of that, I didn’t have a strong enough view on this matter to bother to open a comment, but since you, Willie, have prompted a response from me, I might as well say that I agree with the logical proposals put forward by db and RW. They’ve done their homework. Politics doesn’t come into that.

      Finally, and please trust me when I say this, the manner you display in your attempts to rebutt the considered views of others does your party’s electoral prospects no favours. And I am not political point scoring in saying that. Would that I were.

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  6. I don’t recall any bellows of rage from disgruntled tourists about the viaduct beside the Cruachan visitor centre so why should the A82 proposal be any different?

    This site seems to be full of professional moaners.

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    • The viaduct at Cruachan doesn’t incorporate a tight bend – it’s this, combined with the increased risk of icing, that might lead to a future ‘accident black spot’.

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    • The current Cruachan Viaduct was built in the 1970s to replace an earlier viaduct, when planning criteria were very different and if the government wanted to build a road they did so without much ado unless it was passing through someone’s front room.

      Likening a viaduct built 35 years ago with this scheme today is not a reasonable comparison. If it was proposed to bulldoze the route of the M8 through the centre of Glasgow or allow the St Enoch Hotel to be demolished to make way for a big greehouse today it would be strongly opposed, yet these things happened; planning decisions of decades ago are not precedent for decisions made now.

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  7. Apologies RW if you thought I was being sarcastic to db but his comments are at best intellectually shabby, and as you can see from his recent post, he’s now accusing Transport Scotland of recruiting exclusivly from the ranks of the SNP.

    Not exactly rigorous analysis but maybe best ignored.

    The increased risk of ice that you note I am sure will not present a problem. Structures on roads are more common than folks maybe realize since they travel over them all the time generally no realizing they are there.

    Killiecrankie was one of the last sections of the A9. Half of the dual carriageway is a structure whilst the southbound carriageway is cut into the rock/ hillside but you don’t see it cos yr on it. Why was it last and left so long. Well I think a reluctance to spend the money on an expensive bit of road was the reason……on a killer road that was disgraceful left un- upgraded for far too long whilst the motorway network down constuction south was in full swing.

    A bit like the recent announcement from Westminster about phase 2 of the HSR2 that will create many much needed jobs down south. Seems that folks in northern England are getting into a bit of a stoosh about where infrastructure spending and upgrade is being directed and what about the north.

    This further trauche of some £32,000,000,000 on top of what hws already been spent on HSR1 is serious money. Very serious money indeed.

    Anway, going back to the point about ice risk, there are plenty of overhead structures and maybe just think about the M8 and the myriad of bridges that form part of our road network.

    At least RW we can allways use salt. And other than that I listened to costing the earth and Berlin’s big gamble that you recommended yestrrday.

    Listened to it on the radio i.player last night as the wind howled, and yes Germany are going for windpower big big style. Very interesting, especially too their decision to shut down their nuclear fleet.

    Interesting too how the political parties in the German parliament in Europe ‘s foremost economic superpower are united on rising to deliver the engineering excellence needed to achieve their objective.

    Even more interesting RW when you recognise that the Germans are now well ahead of Japan who only last week announced that they are constructing at 1.2 gigawwatts the world’s biggest windfarm off the coast of ………Fukishima!

    Wonder how poor Newsie got on last night though with the high winds and her power supply problems in the newsroom.

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    • Point taken about there being plenty of bridges and viaducts, and that salting prevents ice formation, but the fact is that there can be frost in such places when there in’t elsewhere, and the salting & gritting can never be perfect.

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  8. Jim B. Amateur, not professional moaners if I may opine.

    Led it seems by the newshound herself in pursuit of a political ideology if I may further opine.

    But the naysayers, mistaken and downright bolshie do seem to seem to have been attracted to this site.

    It’s and education really, verging at times on xenophobia, and a hatred for other countries, and people calling for change. The Scottish Government / First Minister / Transport Scotland / renewable energy / failing oil and gas reserves / all variously get attacked on a regular basis in an orgy of name calling.

    And the Gerrmans / Irish / Norwegians et all all get a bit of a kicking.

    Welcome to to the ForArgyll. Or is it Searchlight Argyll.

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  9. I have been using this road for many years on a regular basis.
    In all that time I can not recall being stopped at the traffic lights for longer than 1 or 2 minutes on any occasion.
    So why go to all this expense and disruption for such a little problem.
    There are much worse problems needing attention on this strech of road and the money would be better spent improving the drainage and easing some of the other pinch points. If the drainage was improved perhaps there would be less need for the rgular night closures to relay the same lengths of road each year.

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  10. I think people should put politics to one side and look at this from a Scottish perspective.
    Looking at the photo montages on this Transport Scotland website we are simply spending this money to do away with a set of traffic lights and will still be driving round tight bends. Not only is this a visual monstrosity, it makes no effort to blend in to any road allignment improvements that will need to be done in the future.
    Tunnels are the only answer to let heavy traffic pass through without detracting from the area’s visual beauty and any improvement should be dovetailed into long term re-allignment plans.
    Anyone who has been to the mountainous island of Madeira in recent years will have seen the fantastic roads that have been built using tunnelling as a major part of the works. Maybe some of our esteemed planners should be sent over to ask the locals how they managed to get it done.
    When the closure time, the loss of the loch side and the scenic destruction is added to the lack of future transport thought, it is frightening to realise that we are led by numbskulls.

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  11. The issue I have here is with Transport Scotland, who appear to have indulged in sleight of hand for reasons of budget control and expediency; if the minister in question had any hand in the decision-making(I’m unclear if this would have been decided by Keith Brown or Alex Neil), at worst he’s had the wool pulled over his eyes by a report telling him there is no alternative to either doing nothing or closing the road for 3+months.

    The comment about Transport Scotland recruiting from the SNP was a lumpen attempt at sarcasm; clearly not my funniest comment, but Transport Scotland is manned by civil servants, they execute the legislative will of the Scottish Government and I think of them as separate entities.

    To reiterate; my issue is with Transport Scotland, proposing to build a visually obtrusive viaduct in a National Park while blocking a major trunk road for 14+weeks to solve a longstanding bottleneck in the A82; a road closure which will have an uncosted impact on the economy, yet one of the main criteria used to select the scheme is cost control. This is not only solution available yet it is presented as such.

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    • “visually obtrusive”…

      My god next we will be getting windfarms in and around national parks.

      I drive the route many times a year…often in the wee small hours heading towards the Oban > Tiree ferry. Sincerely it’s no hardship to stop there for a few minutes…and quite welcome after the rest of the route from Tarbert.

      However and politics aside…take a leaf out of europes book (France/Italy/Austria/Suisse etc) build a tunnel.

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  12. Well said Murdoch. This is a sticking plaster. Where a tunnel would have been invisible when complete, it would also allow a very small, but much needed spot for cars to stopover, for people to enjoy the north end of the loch, something that is very hard to do currently. Longer term, most of the route could be tunnelled, creating a wonderful opportunity to return the north end to the way it once would have been.

    I’m really not impressed with this ‘improvement’ – the road will still be as narrow, and the last time I was over it, riddle with holes and crumbling tarmac. Which no doubt will be made worse by the construction traffic.

    Being slightly political, there are some who constantly hold Norway up as an example of how Scotland could be under Indy – surely this would have been a perfect project to showcase a different way of doing things and actually prove the point they try to make. An opportunity missed!

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  13. Just catching up on reading the TS website. I love it “Disruption will be kept to an absolute minimum” followed by “it will be necessary to completely close the A82 in both directions for a period of no more than 14 weeks between October and December 2013.”

    Minimum/completely closed….hmmm….

    Even funnier, in a sadistic sense, is that there is a diversion route for the diversion route! They actually state the the main diversion route is also likely to be closed – surely when someone wrote that they must have thought ‘hawd on…’?

    Looks like Western are in for some boom times, thank goodness they have a new ferry on the way!

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    • Even funnier, in a sadistic sense, is that there is a diversion route for the diversion route! They actually state the the main diversion route is also likely to be closed – surely when someone wrote that they must have thought ‘hawd on…’?

      As the ‘Chewin’ The Fat’ boys would say; “Gonnae no dae that; just gonnae no”.

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  14. Peter, I am sorry that you had to give up active Scottish politics because of your view that it’ s dominant feature was a pathological psychosis manifesting itself as acute paranoia and Pavlovian hatred.

    Your experience sounds pretty awful but at least there is maybe some comfort to be taken from your view that First Minister’s Questions is a sanitized Comic Cuts version of the scary real deal of your experience.

    Your opinion that things have maybe moved on is encouraging too.

    Whether your personal experiences reflect a particular manifestation extant only in Scottish politics is difficult to comment on. I certainly am not of the view that Scotland has the exclusive characteristic of which you complain.

    But yes I do take your view that not all criticism of government departments is madness.

    Criticism can be constructive. Negative naysaying for naysaying’s sake is not, and again I am sorry that your experiences of the Scottish political scene have led you to the rather sorry conclusions of which you opine.

    A lesser man would have completely given up political membership long ago and maybe moved to another jurisdiction.

    Anyway, to move back to my initial comment, I do think that in these cash strapped times that it’s excellent that the Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government are making a £10m available for this long long overdue upgrade.

    Well done if I may say so even though others disagree.

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  15. Oh, and Scott Wilson the consultant engineers for the scheme are a good Scottish firm with offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh as I recall.

    Scott Wilson have been involved in designing and or supervising many a road scheme in Scotland. The Garelochhead by pass some 25 years ago being one Argyll project that springs to mind.

    Probably did some of the earlier A82 sections too, and yes, this upgrade is creating and or sustaining jobs in a shrinking UK economy riven with cuts that even the IMF are saying are too severe.

    Yes, good stuff, if I may again say.

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  16. I also use this road regularly and like others haven’t been held up for very long even at the height of the tourist season. To my mind there are much worse sections on the road with very tight bends, narrow bridges and stone walls tightening the road width. I have always felt these should be addressed first before the quirkyness of Pulpit Rock. I feel that the lights there are viewed as an embarrassment rather than reflect what inconvenience they do cause. In my experience, there’s more time lost in holding back a whole line of traffic to allow a big lorry to get round one of the tight bends (not to mention the abuse you get from drivers behind you, if you have the common sense to realise the lorry driver has a problem!).

    I have every sympathy with the concerns of those who ask what will happen if the Rest is closed during the A82 closure periods and they have every right to get clear answers on what contingency plans are in place. Assuming this disaster takes place then the impact on journey times on the other alternative route (i.e. Glasgow/Stirling/Tyndrum/Inverary. What happens if the Dalmally/Inverary route is blocked by snow- go via Oban? – or, if we have floods, such as shut the road at west of Callendar – where is the west coast then?

    What has happened is that Transport Scotland and its predecessors have ignored the issues and impacts. They have to do something about the Rest and have committed to dealing with the A82 and have found themselves stuck with a potentially dangerous – and I use that word advisedly – situation.

    Newsroom, you’re not very good at reporting issues about the north of Argyll – you can hardly have failed to miss the furore about the new hospital and loss of care home on Mull and now the possibility of losing our airfield – but you have to wake up that the A82 serves a much wider areaa and this is going to affect not just the bulk of Argyll but also impact upon Lochaber, southern Outer Isles, etc.

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