Safety inspection this morning in bid to reopen OMR

The area of concern on the hillside above the A83.

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A major safety inspection of the hillside above the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful is taking place this morning (Friday November 27) with a view to reopening the Old Military Road during daylight hours as an alternative.

The aim is to consider if it is safe to open the diversion route between 9.30am and 3.30pm today.

BEAR Scotland said on Thursday night that a period of dry weather had allowed debris which had been recorded moving on the hillside to drain slightly and allow a closer inspection of the slope by geotechnical specialists.

All eyes this week have been trained on the debris which gave rise to a warning about the possibility of an ‘unprecedented’ landslip, after the route had already been shut due to a string of landslides already this year.

The continued closure and no sign of a solution has been strongly condemned as an ‘inexcusable lack of action’ with opposition politician Donald Cameron, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, firmly pointing the finger at the sitting Scottish Government.

Mr Cameron said: ‘The SNP have been in power for more than 13 years but have done next to nothing to deliver a permanent solution to the chronic problems with the A83 which are strangling the economy of much of Argyll and Bute.’

Councillor Alastair Redman, the Argyll and Bute Council policy lead for business, regeneration and commercial development, added: ‘We have been reduced to checking social media on a daily basis to know whether we are faced with a sixty mile diversion should we need to travel beyond Argyll. If it looks like rain is on its way all bets are off.’

However, Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, urged Mr Cameron to become ‘part of the solution’.

Mr Russell said: ‘We need a new road, and I know that Donald Cameron and I agree on that. We are both aware of the amount of work being done on that, because he has been briefed on it. I also know that he and I have been part of a cross party effort to take this issue forward , working with the council and others.’

He added: ‘I continue to work hard to get a solution to what has been described as the most difficult climate related transport issue in Britain. I am working on a daily basis with local business, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government to find a solution to the new difficulties which will mean, I think, another diversion route to supplement the OMR.’

At a meeting of the full council on Thursday an emergency motion was passed because of the continued closure of the key arterial route.

The Scottish Government has been approached for a response while Transport  Scotland said work to find a permanent solution is ongoing.

It said it had received 600 responses to its consultation on the 11 options for a potential solution and on Thursday published ’emerging themes’ arising from the consultation.

It added: ‘The cabinet secretary Michael Matheson chaired the latest A83 Taskforce meeting in August, where he met with elected members and representatives from community and business groups, and a follow up stakeholder meeting was held virtually last week. There will be further opportunities to participate in the project as design work progresses in the coming months.’

Meanwhile, highways teams have been carefully monitoring the debris using CCTV cameras and time-lapse footage across the hillside to note changes in conditions or detect movement.

Additional monitoring including ‘hillside spotters and sentries’ will be used should the Old Military Road, the single track route which runs parallel to the A83 through Glen Croe, be given the go-ahead to reopen during daylight.

Eddie Ross, BEAR Scotland’s north west representative said: ‘We’ve been carefully monitoring the movements noted earlier in the week on the hillside above the A83.  The recent few days of dry weather has allowed that movement to reduce.

‘We intend on thoroughly inspecting the hillside and, providing we’re content it is safe, we hope to open the OMR during daylight hours from around 9.30am to 3.30pm under tight control.

‘We will only reopen the OMR if we are absolutely certain it is safe to do so following the inspection.’

After prolonged heavy rain this week, the A83 and OMR has been shut to traffic with a 60-mile diversion in place between Inveraray and Tarbet.

Mr Ross said: ‘We understand the frustration this causes and that these potential opening hours are not ideal.

‘We can hopefully take advantage of a relatively dry period to allow the operation of the OMR during daylight hours, and there after we will need to consider the potential impacts of further rain next week.

‘As ever we thank all road users and the local community for their continued patience while we do everything we can to address the ongoing situation at the rest.’

All traffic has been diverted between Tarbet and Inveraray via the A82, A85 and A819.

Caption: The area of concern on the hillside above the A83.