The Scottish Government has been accused of standing in the way of the only solution guaranteed to keep traffic moving when landslides close the A83 at Rest and be Thankful.
Businessman Donald Clark, who has travelled the route for more than 50 years, says the old military road diversion used during the latest landslip this month is failing travellers.
Backed by a growing body of opinion, he believes the only way to allow traffic to flow if a landslide strikes is to build a concrete tunnel.
Mr Clark, whose family run The George Hotel in Inveraray, represented Mid Argyll Chamber of Commerce at the A83 taskforce meeting called by transport minister Keith Brown earlier this month.
He said: “At the taskforce meeting Transport Scotland officials were delighted at the diversion route of the Old Military Road. I strongly disagreed.
“Only open for 11 hours per day, closed at night for safety reasons, so presumably if there is thick mist, or cloud, the same closure policy will apply, giving the potential for complete closure for a week. They considered that a success. I consider it a failure at its first hurdle.”
He added that the diversion operation involved more than 20 workers, two breakdown vehicles, a digger and a snow plough, but when he requested the cost of this he got no answer.
“I travelled the diversion route four times in each direction over the last incident and depending on my arrival time, was delayed from between 15 to 45 minutes,” Mr Clark said. “My option can be easily constructed and is cheaper than any other scheme. It would give immediate protection and could be quickly activated with permanent traffic lights and snow type gates avoiding the mobilisation of 20-plus people, vehicles and machines at great expense.
“I spent over three hours watching and studying the diversion route and the hillside. This was over a weekend early in March and was outwith the busy tourist high season or the nightmare scenario -– an Easter or a Bank Holiday weekend. It would be gridlock.”
Retired Oban businessman John MacGillivray favours the tunnel proposal.
He said: “They can do it in Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy, all over the place. They basically just have a reinforced concrete pipe on the road. It’s not an impossible thing to do and it would benefit the whole area.” A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “A 2013 study, which reviewed options to reduce the risk of landslide impacts on the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful, did consider the option of a tunnel, which presented significant environmental impacts in relation to ecology, landscape and visual intrusion.
“The option chosen by the A83 Taskforce, which includes debris flow barriers, improved hillside drainage and vegetation/planting options, was deemed to provide a similar level of risk reduction at significantly better value for money. These works are continuing and benefits will be monitored and reviewed on an annual basis.”
Mr Clark claimed the response was “nonsense” as a tunnel covered with natural material would have far less adverse impact than the netting the government has erected.