Rest and Be Thankful remains closed and impassable

Rubble trouble on the A83. Picture by BEAR Scotland.

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Fresh calls have been made for a permanent solution to the A83 after more ‘havoc’ from another major landslip at the Rest and Be Thankful.

The vital high-level route connecting Tarbet with Lochgilphead and the A816 to Oban, was closed on Saturday afternoon as a safety precaution in advance of a Met Office yellow alert for heavy rain.

And it was discovered on Sunday September 13 that around 2,000 tonnes of mud and boulders had slipped and reached road level.

The same section had only just re-opened last Monday (September 7) under traffic light control following the 10,000 tonne landslip which shut the A83 in several places on August 4.

Donald Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said he was a regular user of the A83 and that it was causing ‘havoc’.

The third landslip this year was affecting residents, businesses and visitors as the area attempts to make the most of the short tourism season, he said.

Mr Cameron said: ‘Frankly, for far too long, the SNP Government has adopted a ‘make do’ approach to Argyll and Bute’s critical transport infrastructure.

‘They absolutely must now deliver the long-term, permanent solution local people are rightly demanding, and soon.’

Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, has written to Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson calling for the ‘quickest possible’ route to building a new road.

Mr Russell said the SNP had committed to a new road and the issue now was how quickly it could be built.

He said: ‘The second major slip in six weeks means time is absolutely of the essence in solving the problem which is severely affecting the ability of all the services and all local communities to ensure significant parts of Argyll and Bute remain open for business and for the living of uninterrupted ordinary lives.

‘On this occasion the best solution must also be one that has the potential for having the shortest possible timetable to completion which does rule out some of the more elaborate options.’

Campaigners have started an online petition calling for a ‘bypass tunnel’ which has garnered 2,200 signatures with a flurry of supporters since the weekend.

It calls for a 2.4-mile long tunnel ‘costing up to £261 million’ based on the cost of similar projects in Norway.

However, the unstable ‘geology’ across the area means such an idea has its detractors.

This afternoon (Monday September 14) it was announced both the A83 and the Old Military Road (OMR) diversion would remain closed overnight with a review on Tuesday morning.

That review will advise on the potential for re-opening the OMR and the work required to re-open the A83.

Traffic remains diverted via the A82, A85 and A819 and Western Ferries are providing an extra ferry on the Gourock to Dunoon route due to the added journey times to reach the port.

Clearance of the debris has started with some boulders and material also having also reached the bunding previously formed to protect the Old Military Road.

BEAR Scotland said the wall constructed to support the A83 had ‘performed well and is relatively undamaged’.

Eddie Ross, BEAR Scotland’s north west representative, said around 75mm (2.9in) of rain fell in a few hours in the early hours of Sunday.

‘Much of this was caught in the temporary debris fence and debris pits, however, as the landslide continued throughout Sunday those measures were over-topped onto the A83 with some reaching the OMR.

‘As ever, we thank the community for their patience while we deal with this unprecedented situation. Argyll, of course, remains open for business.’

The latest landslide follows weeks of work by BEAR Scotland.

Over the last five weeks, they had worked round-the-clock to secure the area by putting in a ‘temporary debris barrier’ and a catch-pit, along with plans for another.

Recent repairs have included constructing a new culvert beneath the road as well as installing a new concrete retaining wall.

The wall was anchored to the ground using multiple eight-metre-long rods to help stabilise the road.

Work had also been carried out to stabilise and secure the hillside above the carriageway.

In addition, a new road safety barrier and roadside drainage system was also installed on the road with the carriageway resurfaced.

Yet the weekend’s weather was the first significant ‘rain event’ since the slip at the start of August and will amplify concerns about its ability to cope in winter.