Plan to finally re-open a notorious lifeline Scots road for 24 hours

A TRIAL examining whether a notorious lifeline Scots road can open for 24 hours a day has been extended to see what happens during unsettled weather. The plan to re-open the infamous A83 at Rest and be Thankful would involve traffic being escorted in single file in both directions for the whole day. The test was due to take place on Monday for two days but has now been extended to the start of next week to cover a period of unsettled weather.

It comes after a group of over 1000 business warned that seven months of disruption to the key Highlands route because of landslips have created new safety risks and have set a 2024 deadline for a permanent solution. The trial is being conducted to identify any issues associated with operating the A83 at all hours of the day when weather conditions allow, and will inform operational processes for the road moving forward. The move to extend the trial has come as the weather forecast for Thursday is expected to bring persistent rain, which will commence in the early hours of the morning and continue through to early evening.

Transport Scotland-appointed maintenance firm Bear Scotland said the extension of the trial will allow teams to “ensure monitoring practices and convoy operations can be optimised” during more inclement weather overnight. It said that the trial, which began on Monday, has been progressing well with motorists using the A83 continuously under single lane convoy. The single track alternative route, the Old Military Road (OMR), which also is run through a single file convoy system, where drivers are escorted along the route will continue to remain on standby as a safety precaution.

Meanwhile work is continuing to strengthen the mitigation measures in the area, including development of a new debris catch-pit adjacent to the trunk road. The infamous A83 at Rest and be Thankful has been in and out of action since August, last year after a landslide – and a Rest and be Thankful Campaign has warned the transport secretary of the consequences of eight months of disruption.

Since January, transport chiefs adopted a strategy that was to see the the main road used during the day when weather conditions permit. Eddie Ross, Bear Scotland’s north west representative said: “The trial 24-hour operation of the A83 has been successful so far and has allowed us to maintain use of the trunk road during a period of reasonable weather. “We’re now turning towards the next stage that will involve running the A83 during slightly more adverse weather conditions overnight, with this allowing us to further optimise our monitoring practices and control measures for overnight convoy operation on the trunk road.

READ MORE: Chaos on A83 at Rest and be Thankful will shut businesses and is a ‘disaster’ for economy and jobs, say campaigners “Road user safety remains our top priority and we will only keep the A83 open if we are content that it is safe to do so. The Old Military Road will remain on standby as a precaution, ready to be implemented if required.

“This trial allows us to identify and address any issues before we commit to opening the route on a longer-term basis for road users. While we’re hopeful we’ll be in a position to open the A83 continuously soon, we need to underline that if there are particularly adverse conditions or a weather warning issued for the area that could impact the hillside then we will look to use the OMR as before.”

The Rest and be Thankful campaign backed by business leaders from across Argyll, Kintyre, Mid Argyll and Cowal and supported by the Road Haulage Association and NFU Scotland want Michael Matheson to scrap the 10-year recovery plan and implement a timescale of two to five years. The group are demanding a completion date of May 2024. The Scottish Government’s transport agency’s route manager Neil MacFarlane recently told community leaders in the area that 2020 saw 20,000 tonnes fall onto the infamous A83 at the Rest and be Thankful – double what has fallen in nearly two decades.

And he said that Transport Scotland was looking at 12 options to prevent further calamity with “100,000 tonnes on the move on the hill”. Mr Ross added: “Teams have been working 24/7 on the mitigation measures in the area, including enhancing the debris fences and creating a new debris catch-pit, with such features strengthening landslip resilience and providing greater protection to road users. “As ever we thank road users and the local community for their patience while we do everything we can to address the ongoing issues at the Rest.”

Landslip issues on the road were first uncovered 17 years ago when Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland placed the key Highlands artery among the most highly-ranked debris flow hazard sites in Scotland.

Transport Scotland recently announced a preferred alternative to the A83 via five possible alternative routes at Glen Croe which could include a tunnel up to 1.8 miles – but no timescale or costs have been announced for the permanent solution.

Ministers have previously been accused of wasting nearly GBP80 million on more than a decade of failed solutions to landslides on the road with some locals calling for a public inquiry.

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