SCOTLAND’S most notorious road is to shut down today as a “safety precaution” due to a forecast of heavy rain – despite £8.5m of attempted fixes over five years.
It has been confirmed that the landslip-prone A83 at the Rest and be Thankful will shut from 3.30pm as a Met Office yellow weather warning indicates rain until Saturday afternoon.
The move comes amidst growing criticism over money “wasted” over failed temporary fixes involving catch pits to the A83.
Catch pits are designed to ‘capture’ debris material from a landslip and prevent it from reaching the road.
It comes a day after transport minister Graeme Dey admitted to MSPs that the threat of further landslides at the Rest and Be Thankful is “scary”.
The Herald revealed two weeks ago that transport chiefs had spent some £8.5m on “wasted” temporary sticking plaster fixes to try to prevent landslips on the key road over five years.
Anger erupted after it was confirmed that a further £3.5m has now been set aside for more catchpits as part of a new stage of landslip mitigation measures.
The works began last month and are expected to take nine months to complete. It has meant temporary traffic lights have already been in place on the A83 throughout the construction period.
But the works on the hillside will be stood down on the grounds of safety due to the heavy rain forecast.
Mr Dey has said that improving the resilience of the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful “is one of our top priorities” and that they were continuing to work on a permanent long term solution to the issue.
Motorists are being told that official single track diversion route, the Old Military Road which runs through the centre of Glen Croe will act as a diversion using a convoy system.
Bear Scotland, the road maintenance firm contracted by the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said that intense persistent rainfall is expected to impact Argyll throughout Wednesday afternoon and overnight with up to 50mm of rain predicted in 24 hours.
An assessment will take place on Friday at 8am to determine if it is safe to reopen the A83.
Eddie Ross, Bear Scotland’s north west representative said: “We’re putting road user safety first and diverting all traffic to use the Old Military Road from 3.30pm as a safety precaution due to tonight’s weather forecast of heavy rain showers.
“A band of heavy rain is expected to impact the area from this afternoon, with persistent rainfall expected throughout the night and into Friday morning.
“We have teams closely monitoring conditions in the area as well as the hillside above the A83, and we’ll assess the situation tomorrow morning with a view to re-opening the trunk road as quickly as possible if conditions permit and it is safe to do so.
“As ever, we thank all road users and the local community for their patience in advance while we continue with our work to address the Rest and Be Thankful.”
Construction of the last catch-pit on the road was completed in August having taken over twice as long to install as promised.
The latest catch pit next to the trunk road, will be located at the foot of the steep sided channel formed by the major landslides in August and September last year.
Moves over the latest measures 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 meant it was open for barely three weeks in the space of five months.
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.
A campaign – backed by 1500 businesses fought for a permanent solution by 2024 after an over 15-year failure to prevent disruption.
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.