Matheson missing for update on A83 pits and trees

Transport minister Michael Matheson

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It was another no-show for Cabinet Secretary for transport Michael Matheson at the latest meeting of the A83 task force.

Ten weeks after a March task force meeting was cancelled because Mr Matheson had parliamentary committee business to attend to, the latest task force gathering in Arrochar again featured no cabinet secretary.

In Mr Matheson’s absence, proceedings on Wednesday June 5 were chaired by Hugh Gillies, director of roads at Transport Scotland.

On the subject of the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful, Transport Scotland gave its view that the catch pits have so far kept the road open for 48 days when it would previously have been closed.

Phases seven, eight and nine, capable of holding 1,300 tonnes of material, will be completed in late July 2019 at a cost £2.4 million. Once this work is complete, the road will be fully opened until October 2019.

The tender process for pit one will begin in August, for work to be undertaken winter 2019 to May 2020. This pit aims to catch 5,530 tonnes of material.

Catch pits five and six are being planned for 2021 and 2022, with work to start in winter 2020.

Tree planting above the Rest will start in spring 2020, a partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland, now that the land transfer process has concluded. It will take 15 to 20 years to establish.

On the agenda was the consultation process on the second National Transport Strategy for Scotland.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: ‘The second National Transport Strategy will set out our vision for a sustainable, inclusive and accessible transport system helping to deliver a healthier, fairer and more prosperous Scotland over the next 20 years.

‘Stakeholder engagement has been an important part of the process and we have held events and workshops across the country in rural, island and urban locations.

‘We have reached around 3,000 stakeholders at more than 80 events, including five in Argyll and Bute.

‘Discussions have also been held with organisations including ferry user groups, business groups, Young Scot and Age Scotland.

‘There will be a wider opportunity to comment on the strategy when it goes out to public consultation later this summer before publication at the end of the year.’

Argyllshire Advertiser opinion
Disappointing absence

It is disappointing that Michael Matheson was unable to attend his second A83 task force meeting in a row. True, parliamentary business can be pressing, but he has to be seen to treat the transport problems of Argyll with the same seriousness as those around Edinburgh, the central belt, Aberdeen and the A9.

In relative terms, our A83 is just as vital as the M8 or M9 to the central belt – arguably more so.

Mr Matheson said last year that Argyll and Bute would be at the front of the queue when it comes to transport investment. Things have gone a little quiet since then as consultation begins, so let us hope his officials keep his promise to the people of Argyll.