Scotland’s landslide black-spot presented a fresh headache yesterday when rockfalls blocked the A83 in a new location – and also hit a recently completed diversionary route designed to bypass such blockages.
The biggest landslip closed the main Glasgow to Kintyre road for ten hours in Glen Kinglas, just west of the Rest and Be Thankful pass in Argyll.
Some 100 tonnes of rubble covered the road at a site not hit before, following what roads officials described as a “very severe dump of rain”. Four inches (10mm) fell in 24 hours, with more forecast.
There have been six similar incidents in the same area in the last five years, and yesterday’s incident follows
£3.7 million being spent on protective netting, a new culvert and drainage system at the site of previous landslips.
The latest landslip happened at 7:30am yesterday, west of a new emergency route completed in Glen Croe in February to take traffic off the A83 after landslides. However, this road was itself hit by ten tonnes of debris from a second landslip yesterday.
Concrete blocks were last night being installed on parts of the A83 which are at risk of further landslip, officials said.
Yesterday’s closure involved a four-mile section of the A83 between the A815 and B828.
A local diversion via minor roads was also shut by police because of water running off the hillside, forcing motorists to travel up to an extra 50 miles via Crianlarich.
First Minister Alex Salmond told MSPs of the “serious and developing situation” on the A83.
Education secretary Michael Russell, the Argyll and Bute SNP MSP, feared for the implications of the “worrying new development”. He said: “A great deal of work has been done to provide an upgraded road and an alternative, but if the area of instability has widened that will need serious and urgent consideration.”
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor said: “This is deeply frustrating news for local residents and businesses across Argyll and Bute, many of whom have already contacted me to express their annoyance and anger.
“To have the road closed by the first heavy rain of autumn is a real blow and my constituents fear this does not bode well for the rest of the winter.
“Given the new emergency diversion route at the Rest and Be Thankful, running along the old military road, is obviously too far west to be used to alleviate this particular landslip, I will be asking the transport minister [Keith Brown] what contingencies he can plan for in the event of further landslips.”
To the south, the A8003 in Tighnabruaich was also shut by a landslide between the B8000 and A886.
Mr Brown said: “Our operating company, BEAR Scotland, has deployed all of its resources to clear the hundred tonnes of rock and mud from the road at Glen Kinglas as quickly as possible.
“Landslides are naturally occurring events. We can’t stop them happening, but we can lessen the impact and we have been making improvements, not only to our processes but also through engineering.”
Brian Gordon, BEAR Scotland’s managing director, said: “We are working as hard as possible to get the A83 open again. Safety is the top priority.”