A82 branded one of Britain’s ‘killer roads’ in BBC Panorama documentary

By Bill Heaney

The notorious A82 Glasgow to Loch Lomondside road which runs through Dumbarton before taking the Alexandria by-pass road up the lochside to Argyll has at last been recognised nationally as one of Britain’s killer roads in a BBC Panorama programme.

The local public, press and politicians have been campaigning since the middle of last century to have the road upgraded to a dual carriageway from Balloch northwards into the West Highlands, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears at the Scottish Government.

The A82 featured in a recent Panorama investigation into the rising number of injuries and incidents on roads across the UK.

Official figures showed that there have been 30 fatal accidents on the Loch Lomond route between 2016 and 2020, along with 97 classed as ‘moderately serious’, ‘serious’ or ‘very serious’.

Last year, a pedestrian and a motorist died within days of each other after incidents on the route near Luss.

A motorcyclist was also killed on the road near Renton last summer, whilst in 2020, the mother of 21-year-old Liam Scott, who was tragically killed at the Arden cut-off near Duck Bay, launched a petition calling for safety measures on the road.

Liam’s mother, Kelly Scott, said : “On taking a trip up to where the accident happened, we noticed just how bad this road is.”

In 2019, Bellsmyre grandmother, Theresa John, lost her life in an incident on a section of the road near Dumbarton.

In the current affairs programme, which was broadcast on BBC One, presenter Richard Bilton says: “I’m heading to what people here call the forgotten road.  The scenery is amazing, it’s a very beautiful location. But this route has a dreadful statistic. It’s Scotland’s most dangerous road.

Packed car parks and nose to tail traffic on the A82 road up Loch Lomondside.

“The A82 has cost dozens of lives and captures the dangers of driving in Britain.  There’s bad driving and there’s also the state of the road itself.  This is one of the main roads going north and it’s really dangerous.”

Richard was joined by John Barrell of the Road Safety Foundation, who called for more speed cameras on the route.

He added: “The bottom line is money. You can’t put cameras everywhere you want them at the one time. You have to prioritise. And it appears, at the moment, that the A82 is not the priority for these cameras.”

Whilst Bilton said that he felt uncomfortable driving on sections of the busy route, he speculated: “Apart from a couple of short stretches, Scotland’s most dangerous road has no fixed cameras at all. Like thousands of old routes, it’s an ancient road in a modern world.

“I’m not really enjoying my drive on the A82. There are a lot of sections that are narrow and intimidating.  Speed feels like a massive factor.  It is quite frightening.

“Other motorists just have to do a little thing wrong and we both get killed.”

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie said: “It is absolutely dreadful that so many people have died on the A82 over recent years, each one of those numbers representing someone whose loss will be very sorely felt by their families.

“And, of course, there are also numerous incidents where people survive but are profoundly affected by the events, either due to serious injury or mental trauma.

“The Scottish Government has to take a serious and urgent look at ways of improving this stretch of road, up the lochside, for both local people who use it regularly and visitors who want to enjoy Loch Lomond.  They must take action as soon as possible to stop others being killed or seriously harmed.”

It was never mentioned that the Scottish Government had closed the accident and emergency unit at Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham of Police Scotland, Jackie Baillie MSP and Vale of Leven Hospital where the Accident and Emergency unit was closed by the SNP Government.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham of Police Scotland said that the feature largely focused on England and Wales, with centralised police services in Scotland making it difficult to draw comparisons.

He said there had been a sustained decrease in the number of road casulties across Scotland – despite road use soaring by 30 percent over the last 25 years.

He told one journalist: “We’re working with partners around long term targets, specifically in terms of reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured as per the Scottish Government Framework.

“Road policing is a priority in Scotland, it is a dedicated department with dedicated resources.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “The A82 runs over 160 miles through a varied and frequently challenging landscape and can be subject to difficult driving conditions.

“From 2007 to September 2021, £159 million has been invested in the management and maintenance of the A82 trunk road in the North West.”

He added that work is ongoing to develop improvements between Tarbert and Inverarnan, with more work to be identified as part of a review.

That will include the A83 Rest and Be Thankful route which takes traffic to Oban via Inverary.

Meanwhile, Jackie Baillie believes residents in Argyll and Bute and those travelling on the A83 have waited long enough for a solution to the landslide problems at the Rest and Be Thankful.

Documents released this month as part of a widespread consultation on Scotland’s roads outlined Access to Argyll as a priority for the Scottish Government.

The Rest and Be Thankful part of the A83 which is causing all the trouble.

However it has also been revealed that a final proposal on a medium term solution to the closures on the Rest and Be Thankful will aim to be finalised by “later in 2022”.

Transport Scotland reported in September last year that a data gathering phase in order to inform the best choice of specific route was under way and due to be concluded by the end of 2021.

The Scottish Government also confirmed in September that, in addition to ongoing long term work, investment would be made in the existing A83 in the short term by installing a debris cage and new culvert, the construction of an additional catchpit, debris fencing and flood mitigation measures at the River Croe crossing.

The medium term measures seek to involve consideration of the forestry track, improvements to the Old Military Road and other options on land already owned by Scottish Ministers.

The document published this month says that “depending on the statutory consents required, that work will seek to develop a finalised proposal by later in 2022.”

But the MSP said: “What is taking so long? Local people and commuters have been faced with countless closures on this dangerous route which can lead to a 50-mile diversion. This has been a flashpoint for several years and the communities in Argyll & Bute are suffering because of the closures at the Rest and Be Thankful. The cost to the economy is already well documented.

“To learn that an action plan for a medium term solution won’t even be available until later this year is disappointing.

“The Scottish Government claim to want to make a difference to our roads, but if they can’t even get this badly-needed urgent project off the ground, what hope is there for any other recommendations in the Strategic Transport Review?

“It is also really frustrating to learn that there is no specific planning for the A82 within this review. This is a huge missed opportunity for a stretch of road which is dangerous and constantly dogged with problems due to the volume of traffic, leaving local people in Balloch, Helensburgh and Lomond stranded.”

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