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Rest and Be Thankful problems will continue

I have been driving over the Rest and Be Thankful for 56 years and have a long and accurate memory. I have been a member for many years of the A83 Taskforce.

I have strenuously argued that the Rest landslide problem must be solved, to stop wasting money on ‘mitigation measures’ and find a permanent and safe solution to these endless landslides over the past 10 years.

Money has been wasted on widening, resurfacing and upgrading the Old Military Road with white lining, speed bumps and pedestrian posts on the lower stretch. It has been a total waste money as this option is presently unavailable.

As I have predicted at taskforce meetings, heavy landslides could and will take out both routes, particularly at the top end as the steepest and most dangerous slopes are where the Old Military Road is at its closest to the A83. The recent landslides prove this.

Transport Scotland (TS) commissioned a report to evaluate the options and provide and protect the A83 in Glen Croe, which is Argyll’s M8. The cheapest option was chosen to create a diversion route using the Old Military Road. Ever since TS has being trying to justify this flawed decision and has never accepted any other plan and then obstructed any sensible discussion about a permanent solution.

During my time on the A83 Taskforce, I have dealt with three transport ministers and Humza Yousaf was the only minister who accepted that mitigation measures were not the answer and instigated the latest scheme digging large pits to contain landslide spoil. This still does not guarantee safe passage.

I suggested six years ago building a concrete structure on the line of the present diggings creating a 600m x 4m structure which could be easily blended into the hillside lessening any environmental impact. Installation of gates and permanent traffic lights could easily and quickly be activated whenever there are adverse weather warnings giving peace of mind to travellers.

I have constantly asked what the cost are of removing debris in the high nets in one-ton bags using helicopters, demolishing large boulders sometimes using explosives on this an already unstable hillside and the replacement of expensive security netting.

This was denied as ‘commercially sensitive’ information. I was fobbed off at a taskforce meeting of my tunnel suggestion as it would require a 1.2km tunnel and would cost £120 million and lead to long road closures during construction.

Transport Scotland’s design was wrong, visually obtrusive and used to inflate the cost to make it unviable.

Absolute nonsense.

The present holding pits have been excavated without disruption. A tunnel on this line would avoid digging down an extra eight metres, as they are doing at present, use precast concrete roof and side panels and then further strengthening if deemed necessary. This would save money and protect the A83.

How can a new seawall defence be built at Dawlish after a huge spring storm in 2014 and 2km of twin mainline rail track relaid in eight weeks at a cost of £40 million yet the good folk of Argyll still do not have a permanent solution to the Rest landslides?

With climate change, these slides will continue and perhaps be more severe so an urgent solution is required before there is a fatal incident.

I call on our political leaders and Transport Scotland to solve the Rest closures and urgently address this long-running problem and adopt a proper strategy. I hope our new Transport Minister brings a fresh and constructive view to the next taskforce meeting.

Argyll demands a permanently protected A83.

Donald Clark,
The George Hotel,
Inveraray.

Government’s cheap option for A83 has clearly failed

The recent engineering works carried out by the Scottish Government to try to solve the problems at the Rest and Be Thankful have clearly failed their first test.

Those out working on the hillside in appalling conditions have done their best, as have Western Ferries. The problem is that the SNP government did not invest the cash required to solve the problem.

The SNP chose the cheapest of the options presented to them by consultants. They were warned repeatedly that this cheap solution would not keep the road open, but they chose to ignore these warnings.

When the Old Military Road was first suggested as the route for an emergency relief road, the SNP were warned that debris would fall down the hillside and block it. They ignored this warning too.

The relief road should follow the route of the forest track on the southern slopes of the glen.

Let us hope that this time the message actually gets through to the SNP – they must invest the money required to keep the A83 open. If they do not, the economy of Argyll and Bute will suffer even more damage.

Alan Reid,

Councillor for Cowal ward.

Thanks to emergency services and NHS on Mull

I moved to Mull from London to retire in May this year and have been busy setting up home.

Unfortunately, while I was alone at home, on Saturday September 29 a new, and with first use, DVD player went on fire, and the fire and smoke has caused a lot of damage to my house.

Additionally, I spent two nights in the Mull and Iona Community Hospital with smoke inhalation. The whole experience has been very traumatic but I am improving.

I wondered if you might be able to publish a heartfelt thank you to all the emergency services on Mull who so promptly attended the fire and for their professionalism, care and help.

David Anderson,

Garmony, Mull.

Is anyone interested in starting an Oban in Bloom team?

I was interested to see a letter in The Oban Times recently from Iain Gillespie, chairman of Bute in Bloom, passing on a comment from some visitors to Oban who had been told that the wonderful state of the seafront gardens in Rothesay was due to the fact that the leader of Argyll and Bute Council was a resident.

I have visited Rothesay a number of times recently and have enjoyed the beautifully maintained flower beds, the immaculate  grass areas, the lovely fountain playing – everything that a seaside resort should have.

I couldn’t help wondering why Oban’s seafront could not be similarly beautiful and local inquiries came up with the same reason – all the money goes to Rothesay.

Congratulations to Iain and his brother who do so much good work to help the local council make Rothesay’s gardens beautiful.

Oban once had an Oban in Bloom team, so why can’t we start this up again? We have a young Keep Oban Beautiful group here and maybe if we had more support we could help to bring Oban up to Rothesay’s high standard. What about it?

Maurice Wilkins,

Keep Oban Beautiful.