A GROUP of over 1000 business have warned that seven months of disruption to a notorious lifeline Scots road because of landslips have created new safety risks and have set a 2024 deadline for a permanent solution.

The infamous A83 at Rest and be Thankful has been in and out of action since August, last year after a landslide - and now a newly formed Rest and Be Thankful Campaign has warned the transport secretary of the consequences of 220 days of disruption.

The campaign launched by Inverneill resident John Gurr and backed by business leaders from across Argyll, Kintyre, Mid Argyll and Cowal and supported by the Road Haulage Association and NFU Scotland want Michael Matheson to scrap the 10-year recovery plan and implement a timescale of two to five years.

The group are demanding a completion date of May 2024.

The Herald:

Colin Craig, managing director at bus, coach and ferry operator West Coast Motors who is supporting the campaign said: "A 10-year plan to fix a mile of road is ludicrous and dangerous."

READ MORE: Boulder landslide threat shut lifeline A83 at Rest and be Thankful for five days - despite safety measures

The important Highlands route was barely open in any way for three weeks in the last five months to mid-January after a landslip brought about by rain blocked the road in August.

Since January, transport chiefs adopted a strategy that was to see the the main road used during the day when weather conditions permit.

During the night-time, the single track alternative route, the Old Military Road (OMR) was to be used, which also is run through a single file convoy system, where drivers are escorted along the route.

But since further landslips and threats of falling boulders have caused further disruption.

Drivers have had to endure diversion of up to 59 miles when both routes are closed.

The Herald:

But campaigners have warned Mr Matheson that the ultimate diversion along the A82 route is a "safety risk" with increased HGV traffic on a road not wide enough to travel safely. The have warned that tankers get stuck in the OMR diversion, which impacts the £700m whisky industry, fuel deliveries into the region and milk transport to the nearest dairy in Ayr.

The campaigners say that the region's tourist industry is facing a "double whammy" from Covid-19 and the fact would-be visitors to the area find it "increasingly too difficult, unpredictable or unsafe to travel".

READ MORE: Anger as £1m barrier fails to stop A83 at Rest and be Thankful shutting again after landslip

Other demands from the local business leaders include, ensuring the outcome of the current Transport Scotland review delivers a safe temporary solution in place by no later than May, this year.

John Gurr, chairman of The Rest and Be Thankful Campaign, said: “The lack of interest in seriously fixing this stretch of road by the Scottish Government is hugely disappointing and is having a direct impact on our communities, local economy and business opportunities both now and in the future. “Through this group and The Rest and Be Thankful Campaign, we hope to have a stronger voice and collectively demand immediate action to the constant disruptions caused by landslides and slips at the Rest and Be Thankful.

“This is a call to action for all businesses in Argyll, big or small. We need your support, if you agree we need a permanent solution in three years, not 10 years and an improved short-term solution as the current option is clearly not working then please sign up.”

Earlier this month, the key route had to be totally shut for five days following fears of huge boulders falling from a nearby hill.

On February 21, both the A83 and the OMR had to be shut a matter of days after another landslide. It was estimated around 250 tonnes of debris reached the OMR overnight.

That is despite £1m being spent on 175-metre long, 6.6 metre high barrier having been built next to the OMR to stop debris from a potential landslip.

The Scottish Government's transport agency's route manager Neil MacFarlane recently told community leaders in the area that 2020 saw 20,000 tonnes fall onto the infamous A83 at the Rest and be Thankful – double what has fallen in nearly two decades.

And he said that Transport Scotland was looking at 12 options to prevent further calamity with "100,000 tonnes on the move on the hill".

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Design work is well underway to identify an alternative to the current A83 route and find a long-term solution to the challenges created by the Rest and Be Thankful section of the road. This work is expected to identify a preferred corridor shortly.

“Following this, designs will be progressed in the preferred corridor, and as with other projects to improve the trunk road network, there will be a need to complete the necessary environmental assessments and statutory process to allow land to be acquired and the project constructed.

“The Cabinet Secretary has been clear that the design work for this scheme is being accelerated given the importance of the route to local communities and road users. However, we are required to follow the correct statutory process to ensure a fair and transparent assessment of options and impacts on local communities and road users.

“We remain committed to progressing substantial shorter-term investment in the existing A83 in tandem with the work to identify a permanent solution as part of a two-phased approach and we will keep local communities and road users updated as the design work progresses.”