A83 now ‘an economic and safety emergency’ says Argyll and Bute MP

The scene after the most recent landslide

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We need the right solution and we need it quickly.

This sums up the feeling of the people of Argyll and politicians as the third big landslide of 2020 struck the A83 near the Rest and be Thankful.

Less than six weeks after a major landslide took out part of the trunk road on August 4, it happened again.

Six days after the repairs were completed and the A83 re-opened, an estimated additional 5,000 tonnes of mud and rock tumbled down the slopes of Beinn Narnain between Sunday September 13 and the following morning.

Trunk road operator BEAR Scotland had closed the road in anticipation of heavy rainfall on Sunday afternoon.

With both the A83 and old military road (OMR) detour shut, traffic was diverted on to the A82 via Crianlarich and also the Western Ferries Clyde crossing, but the tragedy of a fatal accident on Tuesday morning closed the A82 for around 10 hours. By this time the clear-up operation at the OMR was far enough ahead to allow this to be opened up and used under convoy to keep traffic flowing.

Councillor Aileen Morton, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council said: ‘The Scottish Government has committed to finding a permanent solution to this ongoing issue, but what is needed now is a date for that permanent solution to start.

Argyll and Bute Council Leader Councillor Aileen Morton.
Argyll and Bute Council leader Aileen Morton

‘There is huge disappointment and anger locally that the area has yet again been let down by the lack of progress. This weekend’s landslip has resulted in further disruption for many residents and businesses but this has been going for over a decade now.

‘Holding a public consultation is one thing but we need a timetable for construction from Scottish Government and detailed plans for when we can all expect to have a fully operational and safe trunk road for Argyll and Bute.’

Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara went further, saying: ‘This is now an economic and public safety emergency.

Brendan O’Hara MP

‘For decades, everyone, including both the Scottish and UK governments have known that this was the wrong road, built in the wrong place and I suspect successive governments have just been hoping the situation wouldn’t come to a head on their watch.

‘Well, as a result of climate change and the increased regularity of torrential rainfall, it certainly has come to a head now. And just as climate change itself is being treated as an emergency, so too should the dramatic effects of climate change and so, a permanent, sustainable fix to the problem of the Rest and be Thankful should be made top priority by Transport Scotland.’

‘Enough is enough’ – what Argyll elected members said on the A83

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell:

‘Quite clearly there is a commitment to a new road. The issue remains how quickly can that be implemented.

Michael Russell MSP

‘There are legal barriers to just driving a road through a landscape without a proper period for objection. In addition, there is the need to purchase the land, do the proper design, let the contract and get the work done. The best solution must also be one that has the potential for having the shortest possible timetable to completion, which does rule out some of the more elaborate options.

‘I would have thought given the fact that the existing road is in the wrong place it would also be wise to ensure any new road is in the right place and won’t be subject to any similar difficulties.

‘So what needs to be done is clear. Increase the work being done to keep it open in all weathers, including more mitigation, whilst accelerating the plans for the new road as much as is humanely and legally possible.

Councillor Dougie Philand, Mid Argyll ward:

‘Given the climate emergency we find ourselves facing another landslide was always inevitable with the increase of rainfall in recent years.

Councillor Dougie Philand

‘In Gerona, Italy, a tragedy happened when a massive city bridge collapsed resulting in the death of many. The government spent 300 million euros on the project which was completed from start to finish in two years.

‘The A83 is our main artery into Argyll and when closed the economic and social impact is massive, therefore on behalf of all in Argyll and Bute we request that the permanent solution for our vital lifeline is accelerated. As in Italy, where there is a will there is a way.

‘Enough is enough. We are on the precipice of depopulation and an economic disaster and to preserve and grow our rural population in Argyll immediate and swift action must now happen.’

Councillor Sandy Taylor, Mid Argyll ward:

‘We are rightly exasperated that the rain will continue to fall, giving rise to an ever-present risk of landslides and road closures.

Councillor Sandy Taylor

‘Having invested in engineering solutions designed to intercept and catch debris sliding down the hill Michael Matheson, recognising the importance of the route to Argyll and Bute and the impacts of closures on our communities, agrees that this approach is not enough and has committed to build a wholly new road.

‘Exactly what we want, however, this will take time to plan and build, whilst we need to protect the road from landslips now. To achieve this we need more, ‘effective mitigation’ measures in the interim, sooner rather than later, and so I join Michael Russell, MSP in his call for planned mitigation works to be accelerated to prevent the repeat of such lengthy closures.’

Councillor Alastair Redman – Kintyre and the Islands ward:

‘The latest landslide clearly demonstrates that mitigation measures are not working and Scottish Government needs to press ahead urgently with a permanent solution to help the people of Argyll and Bute.

‘Whilst our communities are resilient and we remain open for business, we need a clear commitment and details of a new route to avoid repeated and ongoing issues.
For far too long motorists have to put up with closures the moment we see bad weather that can last for days and weeks, which is a hammer blow to the local economy.

‘The situations that constantly occur at Rest and be Thankful simply would not happen in any of the major routes in the central belt.’

Councillor Anne Horn, Kintyre and the Islands ward:

‘It is disappointing that there was another landslide on the A83, resulting in closure of the road and the ongoing inconvenience.

Councillor Anne Horn

I am grateful that the Scottish Government has committed to a new road to ensure that Argyll and Bute is open for business and to welcome tourists and people who wish to make their home here.

‘If Scotland had an oil fund, as in Norway, there would most likely have been a solution to the A83 issues many years ago but the Scottish Government must work within the budget set from Westminster and the restrictions that brings.’

Councillor Robin Currie, Kintyre and the Islands ward:

‘Argyll and Bute needs to stay connected to the rest of the country. To do that, we need a robust, reliable route to and from the central belt. It’s as simple as that.

Councillor Robin Currie

‘It’s what brings people into the area and the area is the Argyll mainland and our many islands. It’s what keeps us in touch with our families and friends.

‘It’s what gets us to and from all the other services we need, like medical appointments. It’s what carries so many of the goods and services we provide for other communities.

‘It’s our lifeline. It’s what we depend on day by day to keep going, to keep growing, to keep moving, to keep thriving, to survive.

‘That’s why we can’t afford to wait any longer and the last few weeks have proved it. The Scottish Government has made a commitment. What we need now is action.’

Donald Cameron, Highlands and Islands regional MSP:

‘Frankly, for far too long, the SNP government has adopted a “make do” approach to Argyll and Bute’s critical transport infrastructure.

Donald Cameron MSP

‘They absolutely must now deliver the long-term, permanent solution that local people are rightly demanding, and soon.’