Busi­ness own­ers call for ur­gent ac­tion over Rest and Be Thank­ful

The Oban Times - - News -

POLITI­CIANS and busi­ness own­ers in Ar­gyll are call­ing for ur­gent ac­tion to be taken fol­low­ing the re­cent land­slide at the Rest and Be Thank­ful, with some claim­ing lives will be lost if noth­ing is done.

Jane MacLeod, sec­re­tary of the Mid Ar­gyll Cham­ber of Commerce, has writ­ten to Trans­port Min­is­ter Derek Mackay urg­ing that dras­tic mea­sures be taken.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion, which rep­re­sents a group of busi­nesses in the Mid Ar­gyll area, is part of the A83 Task­force.

The task­force was set up in Au­gust 2012 to oversee im­prove­ments on the road, with land­slide re­duc­tions one of the key is­sues. It pe­ri­od­i­cally meets to dis­cuss progress on im­prove­ments to the trunk road.

She notes in her let­ter that MSP for Ar­gyll and Bute, Michael Rus­sell, Coun­cil­lor Dougie Phi­land and sev­eral Ar­gyll busi­ness own­ers have con­tacted Mr Mackay re­gard­ing the two huge land­slides which occurred in the space of 25 days in De­cem­ber.

In the let­ter she said: ‘Can I ask that an ur­gent task­force meet­ing be con­vened as soon as pos­si­ble to dis­cuss the way for­ward. We all ap­pre­ci­ate that the in­ter­ests of safety are para­mount and, in­deed, the re­cent pho­to­graphs of a car dan­gling over the verge brings this acutely home.

‘In the in­ter­ests of safety, commerce and our pop­u­la­tion, how­ever, we must meet to de­cide on mea­sures re­quired to make the route safe and open per­ma­nently. Don­ald Clark refers to the A83 as be­ing our M8. It is now be­com­ing our Forth Road Bridge. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has had to spend money on a bridge which ap­pears to have been poorly main­tained in re­cent years. The same can be said of the A83 but not just in re­cent years, for very many years.’

Coun­cil­lor Phi­land said in his let­ter to Mr Mackay: ‘How long do we in Ar­gyll have to con­tinue to suf­fer be­fore a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion is es­tab­lished, or even more wor­ry­ingly, a life is lost?

‘I do hope you will con­sider the se­ri­ous­ness of this sit­u­a­tion and be able to as­sure the res­i­dents of Ar­gyll that you are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion for the Rest and Be Thank­ful.’

Con­ser­va­tive MSP for the High­lands and Is­lands, Jamie McGrigor, said: ‘The Old Mil­i­tary Route was de­ployed and while it is to be wel­comed that we have this di­ver­sion­ary route op­tion, it took 26 hours to bring it into use last week and it can­not be seen as an ad­e­quate, long-term so­lu­tion to fu­ture land­slides, as the clo­sure of both it and the A83 demon­strated so clearly.

‘I am call­ing on min­is­ters to look again at a flow over canopy op­tion on the most dan­ger­ous sec­tion of the Rest and Be Thank­ful.

‘Hav­ing vis­ited busi­nesses in In­ver­aray in the hours af­ter the road was closed I am only too aware of the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact clo­sure has on the whole lo­cal econ­omy of Ar­gyll and Bute.’

MSP Michael Rus­sell said: ‘I’m very con­cerned about lo­cal peo­ple and safety has to come first. Nev­er­the­less, it is very im­por­tant that lo­cal peo­ple and visi­tors con­tin­ues to see progress with work on the A83 at the Rest and Be Thank­ful to guar­an­tee con­tin­u­ous ac­cess.’

A Trans­port Scot­land spokes­woman said: ‘The re­cent land­slide at the Rest and Be Thank­ful was the re­sult of ex­treme con­di­tions, which saw 90mm of rain fall­ing at the Rest and Be Thank­ful in a 24-hour pe­riod. To put this in con­text, 25mm is the nor­mal height­ened alert level.

‘We are work­ing tire­lessly with our op­er­at­ing com­pany and geotech­ni­cal ex­perts to try to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of th­ese events. More than £48 mil­lion has been in­vested in the A83 since 2007. This in­cludes £9 mil­lion to­wards re­duc­ing the risk of im­pacts from land­slides at the Rest and Be Thank­ful and the es­tab­lish­ment of the lo­cal di­ver­sion route, which helps keep Ar­gyll open for busi­ness.

‘As agreed at the last A83 Task­force meet­ing, the group will re­con­vene in the com­ing weeks when the im­pact of Storm Frank, the con­tin­ued work of the group and its next steps will be dis­cussed.’

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