Business owners call for urgent action over Rest and Be Thankful
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.’