DCSIMG

Work starts on clearing crucial Highlands road after Christmas Day landslide

Workmen battle to clear the road and secure the area to prevent further landslides

Workmen battle to clear the road and secure the area to prevent further landslides

  • by ALISTAIR MUNRO
 

Work has started on clearing a vital link road in the Highlands after the latest massive landslide on Christmas Day has left it blocked once again.

• Drivers face 140-mile diversion to get past 15 tonnes of rocks

• Cost of alternative routes for future could cost £115m

Contractors who carried out stabilisation work earlier this year on the A890 Stromferry bypass in Wester Ross are assessing the latest damage – expected to bring further misery to travellers in to the New Year.

Motorists face a 140-mile diversion on the Lochcarron-Kyle road after around 15 tonnes of rocks fell following heavy rainfall over the festive period.

It has emerged that the latest landslide occurred at Ardnarff, to the west of this year’s works.

The latest closure comes as Highland Council investigate options to prevent further disruption in the future, but the answer may be some years away.

Councillor Graham Phillips, of the authority’s transport committee, said engineers were on site assessing how long the road will be closed this time.

He said: “If you look further up the cliff there’s another 50 tonnes ready to come down and that’s got to be cleared as well. Public safety comes first.

Narrow

“If that is all we need to take down then the road will be closed for around three or four days.

“If, on the other hand, there is a greater area which needs to be looked at then it could take a great deal longer.”

Mr Phillips added: ”You’ve got a narrow piece of road here, it’s the main route between Inverness and Skye, it runs for about two and half miles along a twisting narrow road at the base of a cliff and up there there’s about three and a half million tonnes of rock which isn’t very stable.”

The route has been plagued by with landslips since it opened 30 years ago.

The previous landslide on 22 December last year closed the route after 100 tonnes of rock fell on the road.

A temporary road was placed along the railway line using rubber matting and a ferry had to be brought in to help children get to school.

It wasn’t until 23 April when it was reopened, costing Highland Council £2.8m to deal with.

Alternatives being looked at are building a bridge or causeway across the Strome narrows, driving a new road inland or substantially upgrading the existing route.

However the cost could reach £115m and work may take up to three years to get under way.

Stability

Alternatives being looked at are building a bridge or causeway across the Strome narrows, driving a new road inland or substantially upgrading the existing route.

The bridge is costed at £60m bridge, while a 1.2 mile tunnel is valued at £94m and a new, longer bypass runs to about £23m.

Other options include stabilising the rock face next to the Stromeferry bypass at £69m and a £109m project involving cutting rock from the hillside and widening the road.

Dumping tonnes of rock into Loch Carron to give enough space for a new stretch of road next to the nearby railway line has been estimated at £115m.

The A890 helps to connect Lochcarron to Plockton, and its high school, and eventually with Kyle, on the opposite side of Loch Carron.

The road runs across the top of the sea loch to link up with the A896, the main road to Lochcarron.

While the bypass was closed, drivers faced having to take a 140-mile diversion, instead of the usual 18 miles from Lochcarron to Plockton.

Local councillor Biz Campbell said local residents were worried about their safety when travelling along the route, adding: “We have been lucky so far. The school bus missed it last year.”

 

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