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Drivers in 166-mile detour if Highland road is closed

MOTORISTS face a 166-mile detour if a Highland trunk road is closed for repair works.

Less than a mile of road through the village of Onich, nine miles from Fort William, needs to be resurfaced and one option being pursued is closing the route between 7pm and 6am for five nights a week for up to three weeks in October -- around the time of the school holidays.

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This means traffic from the south must head to the A9 and drive to Dalwhinnie then over by Loch Laggan to Spean Bridge and on to the Inverness to Fort William section of the A82.

Anyone driving from Oban to Fort William, normally a distance of 44 miles, will have to head east to Loch Tay then on to the A9 at Ballinluig -- a total journey of 166 miles.

The closure plan has come from Scotland Transerv, the operating company contracted by the Scottish Government to maintain trunk roads in the north and west, although the final decision will be taken by Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government’s transport agency.

A spokesman for Scotland Transerv said; “This is only an option that is out for local consultation and we are awaiting responses.

“It is not set in stone but we can’t undertake this work without closing the road. So if the work is to go ahead, the road must close. Health and safety regulations make anything else impossible.

“We are talking about an absolute maximum of three weeks, beginning on Sunday nights at 7pm and ending on Friday morning at 6am. We will ensure emergency vehicles can get through and we will obviously try to keep disruption to an absolute minimum.”

Stewart MacLean, a spokesman for the A82 Partnership, which campaigns for improvements to the road, accepted the upgrade was required but added: “The proposal to close the road is ludicrous because there is no reasonable detour.

“We still depend on the road during the night. There are commercial vehicles running all the time. The delivery vehicles, the fish farm lorries, refrigerated wagons, they all need to get through.

“My comparison is when the M8 closed for a few hours last winter and the whole country ground to a halt. On a different scale this is what will happen in the Lochaber area.”

Mr MacLean said he would raise the matter with Transport Scotland and added: “There must be other options given how huge the detour would be.”

Dr Michael Foxley, leader of Highland Council and who represents a Lochaber ward, said: “This is complete madness. October is the school holidays.

“They won’t learn their lesson. There are protocols.

“They are supposed to come and discuss with local interests what needs to be done, to see what the best way is of doing it, rather than just firing out ideas.”

A spokesman for the local SNP MSP Dave Thompson said: “Mr Thompson is meeting the director of Transport Scotland in the next few days and he certainly will be raising this issue.”

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