Transport Minister asked to reconvene A83 Task Force

Jane MacLeod of the Mid Argyll Chamber of Commerce and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Argyll, is asking Transport Minister, Keith Brown, to reconvene the A83 Task Force as a matter of urgency, in the wake of its closure yesterday, 3rd October, through further landslides.

She says: ‘We must stop this happening, particularly, if road closures are to take place on the A82 during much needed improvement works.’ [The A82 is the diversionary route in the event of many of the A83′s landslips. If both the A82 and the A83 were closed at the same time for different reasons, Argyll would be all but cut off.

Highlands and Islands MSP, Jamie McGrigor, who has consistently campaigned for improvements to the A83, says: ‘This is deeply frustrating news for local residents and businesses across Argyll & Bute, many of whom have already contacted me to express their annoyance and anger.

‘We are just entering autumn and to have the road closed by the first heavy rain of autumn is a real blow. My constituents fear this does not bode well for the rest of the year and winter.

‘Given that the new emergency diversion route at the Rest & Be Thankful, running along the old military road, is obviously too far west to be used to alleviate this particular landslip, I will be asking the Transport Minister what contingencies he can plan for in the event of further landslips in this locality.

‘As I have said repeatedly, as well as providing contingency measures, Ministers need to take bold action to put in place a robust and practical long-term plan than prevents the occurrence of landslips on the A83.

‘They have been warned for years about the impact of these closures and they need to take decisive action before real damage is done to the economy of Argyll & Bute.’

The landslide mitigation measures put in place by Transport Scotland on the A83 section in Glen Croe at Rest and Be Thankful appear largely to have kept that part of the road clear.making unnecessary the use of the resurfaced old military road below it, a designated relief road when the A83 above is closed by landslides.

A third landslide, presumably on the hillside below the A83 dumped debris on the now resurfaced old military road below, designated as a relief road when this section of the A83 is closed from landslides

The landslide first announced, leaving a modest 100 tonnes of debris on the A83 in Glen Kinglas between Butterbrudge and the Dunoon A815 junction, was on a stretch of road that was hit by substantial enough landslides around 4 years ago, in the worst cluster and spread of landslides this vital arterial road has suffered.

A third landslide left debris on the road south of the car park at Rest and Be Thankful – which is in Glen Croe.

This is a difficult situation for everyone.

Last night’s rain was extraordinarily vicious, with something of the order of 5 inches dumped in 24 hours.

The issue is the sheer lengths of the A83 sections with unstable hillsides above them.

In our view, the A83 Task Force, which started well, lost momentum and became seducible, accepting with barely a quibble the cheapest and by far the least able of the mitigation options identified by Transport Scotland consultants.

However, that section of the road was this time the less affected; and the scale of the challenge overall is, of course,  daunting.

The A83 effectively holds hostage Argyll and much of the west coast and many of its islands. It is arguable that if the entire west coast of Scotland is not to become an economic basket case – which would damage the country as a whole – it is this road that must be protected properly against the geological weaknesses which afflict its reliability.

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46 Responses to Transport Minister asked to reconvene A83 Task Force

  1. The forestry road on the otherside must be in a terrible state ;-)
    To quote Transport Scotland`s transerv-cantserv report “the military road is located at or near the base of Glen Croe and therefore the potential for disruption due to slope failures on the down slope side of the A83 trunk road is negligible…”
    See how quick the SNP`s windfarm policy get a road in that carries over-loads up a hill where you could hardly walk yet when it comes to a main trunk mmmm
    lets face it transerv produced a report that the transport minister wanted and the cheapest option got the go ahead anyone know the notice period the landowner needs before traffic can pass and is it not true he gets a load of money by the day when its in use, might be interesting to know if TS consider economics before committing to opening an `emergency` route…
    He thought he was getting the cheaper option but as we all seem to know Mr Brown backed himself right into a corner at the start of the deal
    5″ in 24 hours..hmm big increase on figures, but even at that Boscastle had 7″ in ONE SPELL
    I think they need to get a grip up the ideas and LISTEN to some locals…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  2. I commented previously(see here) about the study carried out by TS into the options for the Pulpit Rock improvement; it was biased entirely for expedience and ignored options which did not require any road closures. I wrote to them on the matter and their response was that they had analysed the dangers of both roads being closed and it was ‘unlikely’; no attempt was made to evaluate what the economic cost might be if the ‘unlikely’ happened and the impression given was that no-one cared. Given they were quite happy signing off on the original proposal which involved closing the A82 at the pulpit rock for 3+ months this should hardly come as a surprise to anyone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

    • Call me cynical, but perhaps they were under pressure to achieve some visible improvement to a scandalously diabolical stretch of trunk road before the independence referendum?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  3. Sticking plaster transport continues to be the only answer from all the groups with any clout, as Argyll and points West suffer from the lack of vision and investment in a modern engineered vehicular access route.

    Why don’t they start by improving the road from Dunoon to Otter Ferry, it goes over high ground but so does the A9, and get a ferry service started across Loch Fyne. The savings in fuel would be colossal and once the route became the norm, then tunnelled crossings and/or bridges should be installed to make it an even smoother journey.

    Scotland seems to be stuck in the last century s far as roads are concerned. We drive round the obstacles, like we will at Pulpit Rock, where others drive under, over or just straight through. There are machines that do all the work, it’s not like you need hordes of navvies any more.

    We seem to be changing from being a people of vision, striving to make things better, into a dull nation that is satisfied by just doing essential maintenance and small improvements to out-dated systems that are not really fit for purpose.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 33 Thumb down 2

  4. After the the complete shambles with the SNP in Argyll, Russell and his bosses in Edinburgh have decided to cut Argyll off from the rest of the country till after the referendum.
    But to be serious they are not interested in Argyll and the devastating effect this has on our roads which are the lifeline for business and tourism.
    Great point Davy about the wind farms.
    Cheers Neil.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 25 Thumb down 6

    • Our two major arterial routes carry large amounts of traffic and must be fit for purpose , Not sure where the extraordinary amounts of money required to sort this will come from? Heard about all sorts from planting trees to stabilise the hillsides and the ferry suggestion above may be a good idea but both the routes are routes for much further than the areas that are being effected the A83 goes to Oban Mull and the islands and the A82 is the Glasgow Inverness trunk route.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  5. It’s true we lack vision and ambition, the great Scottish engineers of the past would throw their faces skyward if they could see us now.

    Yes, it’s no problem to build robust roads for wind farms or to produce great tunnels for hydro and pumped storage projects, none of which incidentally will make the slightest difference to the climate, but “No” we mustn’t make sensible improvements to major transport links.

    We trundle on hundreds of unnecessary miles and bear the high cost of ferries where they are available when places like the Danish Faroe Islands have had road tunnels for fifty years.

    The Norwegians, whom we aspire to follow, have meanwhile assumed the mantle of the world’s greatest engineering nation – road tunnels are old hat over there – and are now looking at constructing a tunnel for ships!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

        • ‘A tunnel’ might not solve the problem, even if it started below the ‘Wee Rest’ on the Arrochar side, to bypass both the valley floor and the summit ramps before emerging somewhere west of Butterbridge – witness the location of the recent minor but disruptive blockage.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          • Agreed, Robert, I don’t profess any great knowledge of civil engineering however I don’t see any easy answer at the Rest.

            My argument is more directed at reducing large travel distances by using tunnels to take short cuts e.g. Gourock/Dunoon area with an upgraded road to Portavadie and another tunnel to Tarbert, and/ or as MM suggested above, a good road from Dunoon to Otter Ferry and a ferry or tunnel across Loch Fyne – that sort of thing, which would create decent bypass routes to Kintyre and Oban.

            It would call for looking afresh at the existing situation which has developed, presumably, from centuries old travel routes.

            If you could knock 50, 60 or more miles off the journey from, say, Glasgow to Tarbert it could tick all the boxes of safety, environment and economic efficiency and would make a big difference to Kintyre and Islay, etc..

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Short & Sweet – Ermm A83 – Oban & Mull? It goes to Campbeltown via Inveraray, Lochgilphead & Tarbert whilst also serving Islay, Jura & Gigha.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

    • Many folk from the islands and Oban Dalmally and North Argyll use this road to Inveraray and the A819 to the top of LochAwe to Join the A85 many prefer this to the Glen Falloch and Loch Lomond route A82 it is also the Diversion route if the A82 is closed and the main route from and to Dunoon for the northern part of the county

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

      • The A819 Inveraray – Dalmally road is a vital ‘non-trunk’ link in the Glasgow – Oban trunk route, and I wonder whether the Pulpit rock improvement and Crianlarich bypass on the all-trunk A82/85 route will make much difference to drivers’ preferred route between Glasgow and Oban?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • This route is currently more important to Campbeltown, Kintyre and Islay than to Oban.

      Is not part of the problem that the road isn’t designed for the enormous loads ebing transported on them – what is the weight, for example, of a supermarket petrol tanker? The continual movement of the road foundations has to have a weakening effect on the loose material on the hillside.

      Someone mentioned “sticking plaster solutions”, the one being attempted at the “Rest & Be Thankful” is a classic.

      MM suggested doing up the road to Otter Ferry and that’s a very good idea, especially, if the road to Portavadie is done to a similar standard.

      Both these ferries – and indeed Gourock/Dunoon ferry – could be replaced in due course by road tunnels, saving many millions on ferry costs and road upgrades/maintenance on roads which would no longer be vital transport links.

      Not to mention savings on fuel costs for all concerned.

      Can’t we set our watches forward by a hundred years – into the 21st century!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  7. Well done Chamber of Commerce! It would seem that Transport Scotland’s cheap and cheerful option is going seriously wrong – again. They must have surveyed these areas & assessed the risk. If so they took the ‘it’ll be fine’ option, crossed their fingers & moved on.

    They seem to have used a similar logic with the Erines & Tarbert pinch points which they have kicked into the long grass until something goes seriously wrong.

    When they visited Tarbert & Skipness community council they told us that work is prioritised using a formula that relies solely on the death & serious injury count. The economy of an area does not count at all. Apparently they are very proud of this.

    The only way our economy will be taken into account will be if we can get a political head of steam behind a campaign for a proper solution to the A83. It nearly worked 3 years ago but has now fizzled out, partly, no doubt, as a result of our councillors spending their time turning squabbling and navel gazing into an Olympic event!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

    • Yes, Bob, absolutely! High time Campbeltown got “an innings”!

      If roads people sat back and said, “Wait, let’s think again, rather than sticking plasters on accident blackspots, could we not engineer them out of the picture, altogether?”

      “How could we do that AND save money?

      Suggestion: All other things being equal,

      1. The shorter the distances people travel the fewer accidents they will have. In particular, if they can bypass the blackspots the danger is removed.

      2. Modern design of new routes should avoid perpetuating and repeating the pitfalls of continually upgrading old roads not designed for the heavy traffic now inflicted on them.

      These considerations should automatically take care of both safety and economic considerations, simultaneously.

      Time for a fresh approach.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

    • No I did not mean that but it is not only important to parts of Argyll but to all of it. The justification for spending money must be made with the largest area possible that the work will serve.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  8. Second picture in this BBC report shows the `emergency` road in what can only be described as a disaster..i for one would not have liked to be in a slow moving convoy if this had hit
    spot-on db `hardly come as a surprise to anyone` i would go as far as to say transerv treated our roads as a cash-grab and nothing else, showing complete contempt for the public, only allowed to fester by the `blind man on a horse` from a company called halcrow who are appointed by TS to see the quality of the contract for the SP even travelling on the road today some of us can easily spot potentially fatal alterations/operations that transerv carried out on the A83. (Neil) SNP are blowing in the wind (at our expense) today we read Denmark who are now cursed with salmond`s `who we could be` view, is saying the Danish gov (since the 1970`s as a leader in wind turbine building) wants to produce 50% of its electricity from wind by 2020 the SNP`s target that we are paying for is 100% totally ludicrous no wonder we have no money for roads, as a poster on the sabre forum says on this event…”The week after the Campbeltown ferry service ended for the winter”. :roll: pretty well sums it up..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

      • like you comment Robert :-) yes, i could ramble on all night about transerv`s disgraceful management, but lets for one look at the uproar over the wooden railings at Arrochar straights the transport minister knew about them May and it took til November for cantserv to do`s the contempt, two years later what did they replace the barrier with south of Furnace..yep..wooden railings what happened to the people and vehicle that crashed thought it.. i do not know but be under no illusion transerv were probably about 1/2 an inch from corporate manslaughter by negligence..back up to Killean, why were the corner cheverons removed with 36 accidents over 2 months and the trees blamed..the cheverons were subsequently put back…!! another.. i can give you one where i believe the wrong positioning of a sign was partly to blame in a fatality..mysteriously we know can see that sign positioned were it should have been yep cantserv did not give a up the road, and look where a log lorry went through a house, how many arrows warn you of that corner now…yep only one where there was 4…

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. You only have to look at the bridges and tunnels in Gran Canaria to see how to overcome obstacles and make a, fit for purpose, road system, and that’s just a very small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

    • Absolutely Charlie. Anyone who has been to Madeira in the last ten years will know how that mountainous island had it’s torturous roads ironed out by tunnelling and viaduct building. The rub is that we all paid a fair wad towards it in our EU contribution.
      Anyone who has not been, open Google and search for Funchal, then open the maps tab. Scroll out until you can see Camara de Lobos and Ribiera Bava along the coast to the West.
      You will now see short pieces of road (VR 1) disappearing into the mountains. Drag the street view wee man down to any of these pieces of road and you will see the tunnels taking the motorways through the rocks.
      There are hundreds of these tunnels all over the island, but you only need to see one or two to learn how far Scotland has been left trailing in the past.
      We need to wake up our politicians and ask them when we are going to get started on our climb out of the third world.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

      • Ineffectual or non-existent lobbying at EU level caused this; these places were deemed to be deprived regions and got access to EU infrastructure funds(and other funds). I’ve yet to read any compelling argument that the west of Argyll isn’t deprived at least in the infrastructure department.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

      • interesting Murdoch, a good example. However i’m not sure that it’s just the politicians to blame. I’d point to a similar type of infrastructure project. Take France and it’s high speed rail network. You then wonder why we don’t have it in the UK, but actually, there is a bold and ambitious plans for it. And look at the reception that’s getting in the UK, not least from the Scottish Government who use it as some sort of stick to beat the Tories with.

        What hope have we got when the beginnings of a major high speed rail network are being talked down at every opportunity?

        We can’t stick a road on stilts up the middle of Glen Croe and down the other side! We can’t build a road up the side of a loch. We can’t even run a publicly funded ferry service without it being a disaster with a bit of wind! The only big infrastructure that the SG love to support are endless windfarms, none of which benefit anyone in Scotland.

        Prioroties are all wrong – as much in Scotland as anywhere else.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

      • @MM, Yes, Murdoch, I’ve seen them (as I understand it, they’re not in the EU, though) and we’ve seen or heard similar from Gran Canaria and Faroe, so what is the difference between these places and Argyll?

        OK, they’re islands but none of the Scottish islands has a tunnel, either. The key difference is the level of autonomy they enjoy i.e. they are all self-governing and the population of Faroe (c50,000) is less than Argyll would have, even without the Helensburgh area.

        We are in the EU and might reasonably expect support for improved transport links to remote regions, especially, where such solutions pay homage to the EU’s sacred cow of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Argyll (ex-Helensburgh) and the Islands may even qualify as “peripheral regions” as indeed the islands do?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

        • I think you’d find that the EU has been ready and willing to give support, and this raises the question of how many of our own native politicians have – in recent decades – perhaps been less diligent in pursuing such help for vital infrastructure investment than they have in pursuing ‘help’ for financing their lucrative personal property assets in Edinburgh?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

          • Good point, Robert.

            I know nothing about their personal property however the ruling SNP hierarchy have certainly been intent on furthering their personal political ambitions by interfering in local democracy in Argyll, rendering the council politically paralysed for a protracted period of time.

            The new council coalition will now have so much “urgent” back busines to contend with that they will be unable to consider “important” but “not urgent” things like a fresh approach to major transport links.

            That is the serious downside to national politicians playing “ducks and drakes” with local democracy and sadly, it’s local people who must pick up the tab for their infernal meddling.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  10. Newsroom. Where did your “something of the order of 5 inches dumped in 24 hours” come from? I’ve now seen newspaper and TV reports of (converting mm) 1, 3, 4 and now 5 inches in 24 hours. They can’t all be true. It is quite likely that a rain gauge is operating at Rest-and-be-Thankful to help monitor for landslips, so official figures should be available, rather than what I strongly suspect are mere guesses. Which were your’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. If the A83 Task Force is reconvened they might also be interested in how Scottish Water is given carte blanche to disrupt the road south of Inveraray for pipeline construction, as it’s apparently easier (ie cheaper to Scottish Water) to dig up a trunk road than lay a pipeline on ‘hilly’ terrain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  12. I side with the owner of the George Hotel who said on TV that a bulldozer could have cleared the road in Glen Croe in an hour, i.e. by (say) 9 am – but the jobsworths wanted to send ‘experts’ up the hill to assess the danger to the dear workers before attempting any clearance. What possible assessment could they have conducted in the pouring rain?

    1) Has there ever been a second slip down the same gully as a previous one within a few hours – I think not.

    2) Has anyone actually been injured by any of the recent slips, even the idiots who drove onto the debris – I think not?

    3) Why not have a giant dozer kept on site to deal with this – something big enough and with a reinforced and ventilated cab that would protect the driver from any subsequent slips even if it were buried for a few hours?

    I’m just amazed that WCM don’t immediately increase their fares to compensate for the extra fuel and cost of drivers’ hours and their accommodation if they run out of hours. And why not an immediate offer of a helicopter to take pre-booked patients to the Beatson and elsewhere?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

    • Perhaps you would like to compute the insurance premiums that would be faced if your cavalier attitude to safety was adopted. You might also find it relevant that two people died in Dorset last year when their car was overwhelmed by a landslip. They weren’t found for 10 days :-(

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  13. Robert, one of the most compelling reasons for achieving independence is to enable us to engage with the EU. Currently the Scottish Government has little access to it and is obliged to lobby Westminster to represent Scottish interests. Often it doesn’t care to even when it comes to fisheries.

    Andrew, the new coalition has no friends in government and its members have a track record of failing to understand the processes involved. Last time Morton and Walsh went to a Cosla meeting they voted for changes that cost Argyll & Bute several millions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

    • When John MacKay was MP for Argyll & Bute he regularly led the United Kingdom delegation at fisheries discussions in Brussels . The idea that Scotland is not represented in Europe is nonsense . I don’t see Wales or Northern Ireland or England at the table either , I like most people see a United Kingdom representative .

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

      • “I don’t see Wales or Northern Ireland or England at the table either , I like most people see a United Kingdom representative .”

        That is because you are still wearing your special “Islay for ever” blinkers – try taking them off.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Exactly, Anne – if our representatives are just over in Edinburgh there is nowhere else for them to go to hide. Failure can’t be fobbed off down to Westminster or anywhere else. Power diluted is power lost, as far as we voters are concerned.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. Quite, Anne. Pity the original SNP administration led by Cllr McCuish wasn’t allowed to continue without the “infernal meddling” of the MSP and the SNP hierarchy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

  15. Those that can do, those that can’t seem to make a career in politics.
    No one should be allowed to stand for election if they are under 30 years of age. They should post a CV so that the electorate could see and check their background and suitability for taking a responsible position.

    I think one of the reasons that this country is falling behind is that our politicians get into politics straight from university and see work as something demeaning. In the real world, successful projects are only completed with hard work and discipline, something that seems quite alien to our present political parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

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