A83 can’t cope with ‘Scottish weather,’ say MSPs

Rubble trouble on the A83. Picture by BEAR Scotland.

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The First Minister has been challenged to give a ‘cast iron’ guarantee on a new permanent route for the A83 amid criticism it has to be closed every time it rains heavily.

Donald Cameron, Highlands and Islands MSP, raised the issue at questions with Nicola Sturgeon and has said the vital road is at risk of being shut whenever there was a downpour.

Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, also raised the issue with Michael Matheson, the cabinet secretary for transport, telling him any mitigation work was no match for ‘Scottish weather’.

The road closed again following a 5,000 tonne landslip on Sunday, September 13 – the third this year.

Addressing the point, Mrs Sturgeon said: ‘There is a commitment to find a long-term fundamental solution to this and there are now a number of options being considered on a cross-party basis and I think that is right and proper.

‘But the Government is absolutely committed to making sure we have, not just temporary stop-gap solutions, but that there is a sustainable long term one found, because I think the residents who rely on this deserve exactly that,’ she said.

Mr Cameron said despite ‘years of promises of action’ there was an ‘intolerable situation’ which required a permanent solution.

‘I welcome her commitment but actions will speak far louder than words. Residents and businesses in Argyll and Bute have had enough,’ said Mr Cameron.

Earlier this week, Mr Matheson said he understood the frustration caused by closures but said safety had to remain the key priority.

Mr Matheson said: ‘Work has begun on a further catch pit, with an additional one to follow, as well as a new geotechnical survey of the hillside.

‘To accelerate work to consider alternative infrastructure options for the A83, a dedicated project team has been established.

‘Design and assessment work is under way and engagement on the 11 route corridor options will start in the coming weeks.

‘A preferred route corridor will be announced in March 2021.’

A public consultation on the 11 options is expected in December.

Calls have been made for a north bound relief route on the south side forestry track at Glen Croe with a south bound relief route on the Old Military Road.

However, Mr Matheson explained that ‘blanket’ 24-hour operation of the Old Military Road is not ‘always safe’.