To secure an iconic Scottish road, engineers would have to fork out more public money – after it emerged that even the single-lane alternative is under threat from landslides.
The development comes when there is still no timeline for the reopening of the Rest and Be Grateful landslide-plagued A83, which was expected to be partially open in mid-November after the fence repairs were completed.
Over the past four months, the main Highlands route has only been accessible for just under three weeks as a landslide caused by rain blocked the road.
But now, after a series of night-time closures, it has emerged that engineers need to establish security for the Old Military Road, the local single-lane alternative route.
Maintenance company BEAR Scotland said it will start constructing a roadside barrier immediately to provide additional protection for the A83 alternative, which remains closed.
And now also an alternate path to the alternative route is being looked at.
As a potential single lane relief from the OMR, it explores the viability of a forestry road nearby.
Earlier work involving the A83
Transport Minister Michael Matheson made the announcement about the new work at a meeting with the region’s stakeholders.
Next to the OMR, the 175m-long, 6m-high embankment will be placed at the base of a “vulnerable gully” formed in August and September by landslides. BEAR Scotland said that the barrier will be designed using a military-preferred “modular system” and will be largely backfilled with material from past landslides.
When in operation, the barrier will provide the local detour with additional protection and allow continued usage during inclement weather. Construction of the barrier is anticipated to be completed by Christmas.
Whether this would cause more inconvenience to road users is not clear. BEAR Scotland was asked how much it would cost to do the new job.
Following recent several slides during heavy rain, ministers have previously been accused of wasting nearly £ 80 million on more than a decade of unsuccessful responses to landslides on the A83.
Some residents have called for a public inquiry into the issues, with many suggesting that it is important to find a lasting solution.
Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson said, “I was pleased to have the opportunity today to discuss our ongoing work on implementing landslide mitigation measures on the local detour of the A83 Rest and Be Thankful and the Old Military Road with local stakeholders and companies.”
I announced at this meeting that I have instructed our contractors to start building a new 175-meter debris bunker above Old Military Lane, with the intention of completing the work before Christmas, if the weather permits. This will make the local detour more secure and assist to ensure access to the area is continuous.
The planning team continues to examine the viability of the forestry track as an alternate path via Glen Croe, BEAR Scotland said.
BEAR said that the OMR continues to be used by road users as a local detour route, with teams tracking the weather forecast closely and hillside conditions on a regular basis.
Eddie Ross, North West representative of BEAR Scotland, said, “The Old Military Road works well as a local detour route and we keep the route in operation 24 hours a day as long as weather conditions permit, following thorough assessments of the hillside.”
The construction of the new embankment will allow us to more confidently use the local detour route once it is completed later this month.
As always, our number one concern is the safety of road users. We would like to thank the local community and all road users for their patience and assure them that we are doing all we can to resolve the current situation in the service area.
Details of the 11 ‘corridor options’ for a new route have been published by Transport Scotland to replace the landslide-prone portion of the A83, including the building of up to three bridges or tunnels.
But the solution option is not expected until next year….