Task Force set to be taken to task on the A83

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A growing feeling of frustration over Scottish Government efforts to keep Argyll open after landslides looks set to make next week’s A83 Task Force meeting one of the most heated yet.

The lifeline route serving Argyll and the isles has been shut numerous times over the past 11 years following landslides, with the latest of these last month closing the route for a week, costing businesses and individuals time and money in alternative routes.

The Scottish Government commissioned consultancy firm Jacobs UK Ltd to assess options for minimising road closures on the A83. The infamous ‘Jacobs Report’ was published in 2013, proposing six options, of which the government chose the cheapest for reasons of ‘cost-effectiveness’.

The option selected would involve the installation of mitigation netting along with the upgrading of the old road at the foot of Glen Croe.

Road closures, however, have continued as material has to be cleared and netting repaired after every major slip – adding to the cost each time.

The ongoing work has failed to satisfy many people living locally, and following last months closure Jane Gauld, owner of the Slanj restaurant in Tarbet, launched an online petition to press for  a more permanent solution in the form of a bypass tunnel through the hills.

Earlier this week more than 2,000 people had signed the petition.

And, in a rare show of unity Argyll and Bute Council members last month voted unanimously to press for government action for a permanent solution the the Rest problem.

One prominent campaigner for a permanent engineering solution at the Rest has been Inveraray hotelier Donald Clark, who said: ‘ This should have been achieved many years ago. Mitigation lessens damage and closures but never guarantees full protection.

‘The choice of using the Old Military Road as a diversion route was the cheapest option in The Jacobs Report and was a flawed choice. It has over years led to months of both roads being closed, subjecting travellers to a detour of at least one hour – unacceptable in this day and age and would not be tolerated in the more populous areas of the central belt.’

The A83 Task Force – made up of government officials, trunk road engineers, local business managers, councillors and other interested parties – was set up in 2012 to oversee improvements to the route.

The group’s next meeting will be held in Inveraray on Thursday November 15, with Transport Minister Michael Matheson in attendance.

Ahead of that gathering, however, a meeting was arranged for anyone with an interest in the Rest on Friday November 9, at the Slanj restaurant, setting the scene for what could be a fiesty encounter in Inveraray six days later.