By Rory Murphy
The preferred route to replace a section of the A83 hit by landslides would run through the same glen as the existing road, it has been announced.
The section of road – the Rest and Be Thankful, near Arrochar – has become infamous for landslips, closures and long diversions.
Transport Scotland has been consulting on 11 “route corridor options” to improve travel through the area.
A route through Glen Croe near the existing road has now been identified.
Transport Scotland said that in recognition of a need to act quickly, further short and medium-term mitigation works at the Rest and Be Thankful had also been identified and would be taken forward in the coming months.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson, pictured right, said he understood the “frustration and disruption” caused by problems at the section of road.
He said: “We are progressing substantial short-term investment in the existing A83 including installing a debris cage and new culvert, construction of an additional catchpit, debris fencing and flood mitigation measures at the River Croe crossing.”
Mr Matheson said a “medium-term resilient route” through Glen Croe was also being looked at, with minor roads in the area called the Forestry Track and the Old Military Road being considered as possible routes.
He added: “Identifying the preferred route corridor is a major step forward for this vital work and we are now pushing forward to look at five alternative options within that online corridor and starting the process shortly to appoint design consultants for this work.”
Transport Scotland said the preferred route corridor was more cost effective and quicker to deliver than the others, with significantly fewer environmental constraints.
It said it would start the process of procuring long-term consultancy services for the design work next month and taking forward further survey and assessment work in parallel with this procurement subject to Covid-19 restrictions.
John Gurr, of The Rest and be Thankful Campaign, said the announcement was welcome but said timescales remained uncertain.
He said: “As we move into day 230 of the Rest and Be Thankful being closed or disrupted we urge Mr Matheson to put deliverable dates against this project.”
Mr Gurr said the campaign had hoped for a completion date of May 2024 but this had “once again fallen on deaf ears”.
The Rest and Be Thankful is the vital arterial route which connects the bulk of Argyll and Bute with the Central Belt, writes Jamie MacIvor, of BBC Scotland.
Landslides can add significantly to what is already a long road journey from Glasgow to Inveraray, Lochgilphead, Campbeltown and the Islay ferry terminal at Kennacraig.
The fear is that this is not merely inconvenient for local people. Tourism plays a very important part in the area’s economy.
It is probably unsurprising that the preferred route going forward is similar to the existing route – some of the other options for providing road access to Argyll and Bute were much more radical. For instance they looked at providing access via the Cowal Peninsula.
The big question going ahead is what the road going through the Rest and Be Thankful should be like – for instance might it be a new road in another part of the valley or involve tunnel sections, viaducts or canopies?
But it will be a long time before a new road is built. The immediate questions are about minimising disruption on the route and whether more can be done to improve other transport connections into the area and reduce dependence on the Rest and Be Thankful.
Argyll and Bute Council is supporting calls for a seasonal ferry service linking Ardrossan and Campbeltown to start operating all through the year to help improve access to the area.