£6.6M Rest plan best route, for now
THE TRANSPORT minister has said that no credible permanent solution for the A83 Rest and Be Thankful had been found to date.
MSP Derek Mackay, cabinet minister for transport, said the £6.6 million investment announced on Monday is the correct course of action on the information experts have given him to make the main route into Argyll secure and sustainable.
Mr Mackay said he was willing to listen to anyone who believes they have found the permanent solution – in the meantime meaningful progress is being made. Speaking exclusively to The
Oban Times after the Monday morning announcement, Mr Mackay said he was taking a ‘rational, responsible approach’ to ongoing concerns about the landslip-prone area having asked the people of Argyll and Bute what the long-term solution for the route was. He said ‘noone can come up with a risk-free solution’.
‘Anything other than this would be a waste of tax payers money,’ he continued.
‘If there is some solution we are missing that would make the entire area safe then we will look at it immediately. We have looked at all the ideas that have been brought before us until now and we will continue doing that.
‘In the meantime we need to make sure we are doing what we know works.’
Mr Mackay said the latest incident at the end of December where a woman was almost killed when her car was caught up in a landslip was ‘exceptional’, and that the track record was that there were fewer closures due to the netting. He added: ‘ We need a continuity of access and the new netting solutions will take us nearer to that.’
Mr Mackay admitted that communication with the public had not always been as immediate as he would have liked and that alternative routes were taking too long to open up.
‘We need to get the message out there that Argyll is not closed but is ‘open for business’.
‘The Old Military Road needs to open as soon as problems happen on the other route. We cannot have a 24-hour delay in it opening. Decisions have to be made promptly and safely. Everything we do has to be about public safety.’
Mr Mackay said further multi-million pound investment in the alternative route, via Loch Lomond, at Pulpit Rock and the Crianlarich bypass, ‘have been well received’.
When discussing a plan for a passage through the most landslip prone area – a 300- 400-metre section of the Rest and Be Thankful – put forward by local hotelier Donald Clark, Mr Mackay said this plan would not cover the entire area needing protection.
‘If it was the right thing to do then we would do it. But it does not solve all the problems we have in the area.’
Mr Mackay dismissed claims about a central-belt bias in funding and approving roads and transport projects.
‘When I go to the control room at Transport Scotland the situation in Argyll is always on the agenda,’ he said.
‘What is happening anywhere in the country is of importance to me. Let me be clear, we want our roads moving in Scotland and I think that anyone who was at the taskforce meeting on Monday will agree, that this route is receiving our attention as it would if it were in Glasgow, Edinburgh or anywhere in Scotland. The plain fact is that there are no easy answers.
‘On Monday there was an opportunity for the members of the taskforce to reject the money but everyone around the table agreed the investment.’
Argyll and Bute Council’s policy leader for roads, Councillor Ellen Morton, said: ‘Being prepared to respond to bad weather is one thing but taking action which will ensure permanent access is clearly the best long-term goal. We are committed to doing all we can as a local authority, but only the Scottish Government can deliver a permanent solution.
‘We are pleased that we continue to have these positive strategic meetings and work with our partners at national government level and on the A83 taskforce to move this forward.’ A83 campaigner Donald Clark, from the George Hotel in Inveraray, said: ‘I have consistently argued that a simple, safe, open-sided flow- over canopy (closed outer edge at the top three gullies) could be easily cut into the hillsides to give a four-metre wide single carriageway relief road activated at high landslide alert times.
‘These three dangerous gullies are on a 300m section of the Rest and Be Thankful. Transport Scotland has ruled this out on a cost basis. It has produced an overly complicated design stretching to 1.2km at a cost between £105 and £120m.
‘If the Dawlish seawall and twin mainline railway tracks can be completely rebuilt at a cost of £ 35 million in eight weeks then Transport Scotland has got its design and costings seriously wrong.’