ROAD chiefs have been come under fire after the latest temporary fix to try to prevent landslips on one of Scotland’s key roads brings the cost to over £5m.
Construction of the latest catch-pit on the landslip-prone A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful has been completed having taken over twice as long to install as promised.
Scottish Government-appointed maintenance firm Bear Scotland said the mitigation measure which started in September, last year, was to take up to five months to complete.
It comes amidst growing criticism that now over £5m has been “wasted” over five years of failed temporary fixes to what is Scotland’s most notorious road.
Details of the official costs of the mitigation measures come as a campaign – backed by 1500 businesses fought for a permanent solution by 2024 after an over 15-year failure to prevent disruption.
The latest measure to prevent closures on the road which was begun at the start of September last year and should have been in place by early February.
Bear Scotland, which was appointed by Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland has confirmed that the 390 yards long and 39 feet wide pit was finally completed last week.
Transport minister Graeme Dey said that the move showed the Scottish Government continued to treat the issue with the road “with the seriousness and urgency it deserves”.
An existing catchpit
But campaigners fear that the latest delayed mitigation measures are just more money wasted.
John Gurr, chairman of the Rest and be Thankful Campaign said: “Millions have been spent on mitigation measures over the years and sadly most of those measures have been unsuccessful in keeping the RABT open. Last year, despite mitigation measures just like this one, 20,000 tonnes of debris still fell at the rest and closed the road for over 200 days.
“Our autumn and winter seasons are increasingly wetter, and with 100,000 tonnes of unstable material expected to fall over the coming months, what we need is a permanent fix at the RABT, not a £1m band aid solution which slips off at the first sight of rain.”
Moves to create the latest measure to prevent road closures came after a major landslip around 650 feet above the carriageway shut the road in August, last year.
Engineers said thousands of tonnes of debris including car-sized boulders slid onto the road after 100mm of rain hit the Argyll hills.
One of the landslip mitigation catch-pits, built to prevent landslip material reaching the road, caught around 2,000 tonnes – but it did not stop thousands more tonnes hitting the road.
The slip ushered in a series of road closures for the important Highlands route which by January had been open for barely three weeks in the space of five months.
A helicopter was brought in to help stabilise the hill after a previous slip Source: Bear Scotland
In February the A83 and the official single track diversion route, the Old Military Road which runs through the centre of Glen Croe was shut after hundreds of tons of debris fell in another landslip.
That is despite £1m being spent on 175-metre long, 6.6 metre high barrier having been built next to the OMR to stop debris from a potential landslip.
Bear Scotland said the new catch-pit was capable of holding around 4,500 tonnes of debris from a potential landslip.
It is the fifth phase of construction to be completed along the route, and joins onto the existing catch-pits in the area to create additional landslip defence next to the A83.
Together, the catch-pits have the potential to store a combined total of almost 20,000 tonnes of debris material from landslides in the area.
A new A83 route which could include a tunnel close to the A83 has been identified as the Scottish Government’s favoured permanent solution – but it is a long-term solution which could take seven to ten years to complete after being approved.
But that choice has now led to five new options on the table for the new Glen Croe route, some of which include tunnels up to 1.8 miles long.
Transport minister Graeme Dey said: “Improving the resilience of the A83 Rest and Be Thankful is one of our top priorities, so the completion of this additional catchpit is very welcome.
“The Scottish Government continues to treat the issue with the seriousness and urgency it deserves, as we look to implement measures to maintain connectivity on a short, medium and long term basis.”
Bear Scotland said the construction process was dictated by weather and hillside conditions with progress “impacted by an extremely wet autumn and early winter period”.
A spokesman said: “During the construction period, works were also undertaken to implement a number of measures designed to make travel through Glen Croe more resilient, such as the construction of the Old Military Road bund and an extension to the roadside debris barrier on the A83.
“These additional works influenced the programme associated with catch-pit construction, pushing the completion date back. Latterly, some delays have also been experienced with the supply of cement used in the catch-pit side walls.”