More money for ‘sticking plaster’ work at the Rest

The mitigation measures include debris nets, improved drainage, catch pits and hillside planting.

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News of an additional £1.9 million to be spent on landslide mitigation on the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful has been met with a lukewarm response from Argyll and Bute Council.

The plans were unveiled by Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson while giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee concerning a petition submitted by Mid Argyll councillor Dougie Philand.

Councillor Dougie Philand
Councillor Dougie Philand

Councillor Philand’s petition calls for a permanent solution for the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful, ensuring the vital lifeline route is not closed because of landslides. It was lodged following major disruption in 2014.

Since then, the road was closed for nine days in 2018 following landslides, a large boulder coming loose meant the road was closed in early 2016 and the most recent landslips occurred in January this year, causing the road to close for two days.

Michael Matheson said £13.3 million had been spent at the Rest and be Thankful on landslide mitigation – debris fences and catchpits – since 2007.

He added: ‘Work is now under way in partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland to source the required native tree species that will form the basis of the new woodland to be established on the steep slopes of Beinn Luibhean above the A83.’

Transport minister Michael Matheson in Inveraray by Loch Fyne.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson

Welcoming the news, Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said: ‘The catch pit programme has had a very positive impact, keeping the road open for at least 48 days in which this otherwise would not be possible so I am glad to see this being expanded.

‘I am also glad that in the longer term, the Scottish Government is making Argyll and Bute a priority in the second strategic transport projects review.  This means recommendations for the area, including plans for a replacement road, can be among the first reported and actioned.’

Council leader Aileen Morton
Argyll and Bute Council leader Aileen Morton

Argyll and Bute Council leader Aileen Morton was less enthusiastic: ‘The issues with the Rest and Be Thankful have been recognised for more than a decade now, a decade in which a sticking plaster approach has been taken by the Scottish Government,’ she said.

‘The process the Scottish Government is currently going through to review potential transport projects across the country is a long, drawn out one. This was first suggested as a way forward for the Rest and Be Thankful in October 2018. We have no more information now than we did then and the final Strategic Transport Projects Review report isn’t due to be available until spring 2021.

‘Considering the mitigation measures failed yet again, Argyll and Bute Council is still asking for a permanent solution to be identified, funded and delivered as a matter of urgency.’