At Random with Martin Laing

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Road plan is ill-conceived

There is highly justifiable anger over the proposal to close the A828 over three weeks during the daytime to carry out roadworks.

BEAR Scotland, the national ‘service provider in the Scottish roads maintenance sector’ – so its website says – announced the planned closures of this vital artery earlier this month.

The plans are for work to be done in two phases, the first between Ballachulish and Creagan from Monday September 11 to Monday September 18, with the road shut for three days on the 11th, 12th and 13th from 8am to 7pm. The second phase will see work done between Creagan and Ledaig, from Tuesday September 19 to Thursday September 28, with the road closed from the 19th to the 27th from 8.30am to 7pm (weekdays only).

BEAR Scotland said: ‘Access for public transport and emergency services would be accommodated, and access for local residents and businesses will be maintained when it is safe to do so. All other vehicles will be diverted at Ballachulish and Connel via Tyndrum (A82 and A85).’

A spokesperson defended the decision despite the perfectly viable alternative of doing the work at night.

A statement from BEAR Scotland said: ‘Carrying out all activities within the combined project separately and at night would require at least 22 night-time closures and take up to 12 weeks to complete, meaning multiple road closures and traffic management processes spread throughout this prolonged period.

‘The proposal to deliver the package of improvements in two phases under “blocks” of day closures, outwith the summer peak season, will mean considerably less disruption throughout the year for road users and provides a much safer environment for roadworkers.’

Never mind the inconvenience of – and expense – of a 90-mile diversion via the A82 and A85, this will cause severe disruption for countless people.

It could also be devastating for a number of local businesses which rely on passing trade using this trunk road.

As we reported last week, at least two local entrepreneurs have stuck their heads above the parapet to condemn this.

Ewan Mathieson said: ‘I operate a tourist business in the area. My visitors will have significant delays in arriving into Appin and will be denied the ability to tour the area. Appin and North Argyll rely on tourism. I will lose business, income and reputation. BEAR Scotland plans for significant disruption and daytime road closures to my only road north and south are completely unacceptable and need to be stopped.’

And Fiona Hutchison, who runs at Kinloch­laich Garden Centre and self-
catering cottages, added: ‘This will mean a complete loss of income for my business. I rely on passing trade and … if this goes ahead I will have no income and will have to look at giving my staff less working hours for the whole winter following. We are supposed to have had a letter through the door – we haven’t.’

Both of them made very valid points.

We are still in the tourist season so this foolish plan will hit them and others hard.

The only sensible solution is to bite the bullet and do the work at night. Come on, BEAR Scotland, admit this plan is a mistake.

Pointless ceremony

A press release from Argyll and Bute Council at the tail end of last week announced the official opening of the new pontoons at the North Pier.

The ceremony – no doubt with all the high heid-yins away from their desks at Kilmory and enjoying a junket up to Oban for the afternoon – is due to take place at 2pm on Thursday August 31.

I have to ask, though: why?

We’ve already had an opening, performed by Councillor Elaine Robertson, at the start of the month. We even published a story and picture in our edition of August 3.

The council was rushed into declaring the pontoons open because boats were already using them.

So what on earth is the point of doing it again?

What do you think?
Write to me at mlaing@obantimes.co.uk or The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4 HB.