£25m for A83 consultants slammed

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Community leaders have criticised £25 million being put aside for spending on consultants to deliver the A83 Rest and Be Thankful project.

National transport agency Transport Scotland has recently advertised for companies to submit tenders as it seeks to appoint ‘multi-disciplinary consultants’ for the project.

But a leading local councillor said the problems with the route are well known and consultants should not be required.

Councillor Roddy McCuish, who represents Oban South and the Isles, said: ‘We know what needs to be done at the Rest and Be Thankful, we don’t need any more consultants, let’s just get on with the job.’

Transport Scotland has said contactors are required to ‘support the delivery of a new length of trunk road’.

They are scheduled to last 10 years with the deadline for bids approaching.

Mr McCuish’s comments were echoed by Andy Spence, chief executive of BID4Oban.

Mr Spence said he was a member of a group of businesses in Argyll which are desperate to see the issue resolved after years of landslips and road closures.

Mr Spence said: ‘Not only are the consultants going to be paid round about £25 million, the project is for 10 years plus, which would indicate there is not going to be a solution to the Rest and Be Thankful for some time.’

He said Oban had an alternative route in the A82, which, while still not always ‘very good,’ was better served than other areas such as Kintyre and some of the southern islands.

The delay in completing the new route could have a ‘major economic impact,’ he said.

Mr Spence called on councillors representing Oban on Argyll and Bute Council to keep raising the issue because of the importance of economic development.

Transport Scotland said in a response: ‘Consultants are being procured to progress the design of options, and as with other projects to improve the trunk road network, there will be a need to complete the necessary engineering and environmental assessments as well as the statutory process to allow land to be acquired and the project constructed.

‘The £25m figure for consultants fees is an initial estimate that has been benchmarked against other schemes. It covers the whole life of project development and delivery. The purpose of the procurement competition for a consultant is to secure value for money.

‘As is our normal practice, Transport Scotland closely monitors progress and expenditure and employs value for money processes throughout scheme development and delivery.’

It said the resilience of the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful had deteriorated over the course of the last year.

However, it had tried to ‘maintain connectivity,’ between 2007 and mid-2020, it said.

‘The recent situation based on a series of landslides starting in August 2020 has called for further, and more extensive, action.

‘We can assure local residents and road users that the situation is being treated with seriousness and urgency with measures to maintain connectivity through the glen being expedited on a short, medium and long term basis.

‘As part of our plans, we are proposing a medium term route and examining options in and around the forestry track on land owned by Scottish Ministers along with potential upgrades of the OMR local diversion. Depending on the consents required those proposals could be finalised in 18 months.’