Key Highland road route closed again after landslide

One of the key road arteries to the Scottish Highlands has been closed for the second time in six weeks after heavy rainfall caused a significant landslide.

Sunday, 13th September 2020, 12:57 pm
Updated Sunday, 13th September 2020, 3:00 pm
The landslide hit the A83 after three inches of rainfall in the space of 24 hours. Picture: Bear Scotland
The landslide hit the A83 after three inches of rainfall in the space of 24 hours. Picture: Bear Scotland

The A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful was initially closed overnight on Saturday as a precautionary measure after the Met Office warned of significant rainfall.

It was expected the trunk road through Argyll would reopen on Sunday afternoon after the worst of the rain had passed, but operator Bear Scotland said the A83 and the nearby Old Military Road – initially intended as a diversion route – would remain closed again overnight.

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With three inches of rain falling in 24 hours, it said the “ongoing nature of the landslide” and continued rain had left its workers unable to conclude safety assessments.

It remains unclear exactly how much debris had fallen onto the road, but images taken by Bear Scotland at the scene revealed extensive damage.

The closure, which will require motorists to make a 59 mile diversion via the A82, A85, and A819, comes less than a week after the route reopened following a 10,000 tonne landslide at the beginning of August.

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In the aftermath of that event, Bear Scotland said its geotechnical engineers had expressed concern about the impact of such heavy rain on the scarred hillside.

A Met Office yellow warning remains in place for swaths of the west coast of Scotland until midnight tonight, with heavy, persistent rain expected through much of Sunday.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said 75mm of rain fell in 24 hours at the Rest and Be Thankful over the course of the weekend. There were similar levels of rainfall across swaths of the country, with a series of flood warnings in place.

SEPA’s duty flood manager, Mark Franklin, said continued heavy rainfall in the north west the country on Sunday was likely to cause disruption.

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He said: "This is likely to result in further localised flooding of land and roads, as well as some transport disruption before improving on Monday.

"People living, working and travelling in these areas are advised to ensure they have signed up to Floodline and are prepared to take action to protect property."

Ferry operator Western Ferries said it had put in place additional sailings on its route between Gourock and Dunoon as a result of the A83’s closure.

Plans to re-route the stretch of the A83 in question have been accelerated following August’s landslide, with options including tunnels, bridges, and upgrading of the Old Military Road among those under consideration.

The project would be on a completely different scale to mitigation measures such as so-called debris “catch pits” built after previous landslips.

The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said the options “covered a variety of potential approaches to improving the resilience of the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful, including re-routing the road and structures within Glen Croe”.

It said last month that the options would be published in a few weeks’ time with a choice to made in the spring.

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