SCOTLAND's most notorious road has suffered a new landslip after being  out of action for three days for safety reasons.

When the key route is shut, motorists are sent onto a single track route, the Old Military Road (OMR), which runs through the centre of Glen Croe and acts as a diversion using a convoy system.


What is the significance of this road?

The A83 is a key transport artery in Argyll that connects the Central Belt, via the A82 from Glasgow, to the Kintyre peninsula, all the way down to Campbeltown.

The iconic Rest and Be Thankful is the highest point of a scenic ten mile route running from Tarbet to the A83's junction with the B828.

The words Rest & Be Thankful are inscribed on a stone near the junction, placed there by soldiers who built the original military road in 1753, now referred to as the Drovers' road.

About 1.3 million vehicles travel the route every year and it acts as an important transport link for mainland Argyll as well as the Inner Hebrides.

What has prompted the latest concerns over this road?

Two landslips brought about by rain which blocked the road three years ago has meant the road has come under the spotlight.

It has had to be shut periodically ever since.

READ MORE: A83 at Rest and be Thankful to shut over landslip fears

In January, 2020, the road was closed for two days after being covered by 1,300 tonnes of debris - leading to pleas for the road to be rerouted.

The Herald:

Seven months later on August 4, some 6,000 tonnes of debris cascaded onto the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful.

By the end of that month, the road had been closed for the same length of time as over the five years between January 2007 and October, 2012 which lead to an investigation into how to handle the hillside stability.

In 2020 alone it was shut for over 200 days.

After the January landslide, the transport secretary Michael Matheson effectively dismissed calls for the permanent rerouting solution and instead decided to spend £1.9m on another attempt to catch any landslip fall, a big pit at Glen Croe. That was completed in mid-May and transport chiefs said by the end of that month that four had been installed.

Was this not known about?

Yes. There have been concerns ministers have wasted over £80m over more than a decade on failed solutions to the landslide issue.

Concerns were raised about the millions spend on temporary solutions to the landslip problem that which were first highlighted in the Scottish Road Network Landslides Study part authored by then Scottish Executive - 18 years ago.

The 2005 Scottish Road Network Landslides Study referred to instability, "including in the form of debris flows, in many areas underlain by schist" - a medium-grade metamorphic rock formed from mudstone or shale.

Good examples cited of "such instability" were the A83 in the vicinity of the Rest and be Thankful, A83 Loch Shira, A890 Stromeferry and the A87 at Invermoriston.

The Herald: The notorious Rest and Be Thankful

It said there was a need for landslide gates at locations where a physical closure may be deemed necessary, adding: "An obvious hazard area where such an approach would be appropriate is the A83 in the Rest and be Thankful area."

Seven years later Transport Scotland commissioned studies about permanent and short-term solutions about concerns over landslides on the road which had long since led to road closures.

One report co-authored by a landscape architect for Transport Scotland referred to the A83 at Rest and be Thankful as one of the "highest ranked sites" in the 2005 landslides study.

So what is being done about it?

After years of deliberation, ministers said in June that they were planning the construction of a mile-long 'landslip shelter' costing £470m to resolve the issues with landslips.

The construction of the debris flow shelter is the preferred option for the long-term solution and followed a design and assessment work on five options through the Glen Croe valley. Minister rejected a more expensive option to build a tunnel with a new 2.5-mile road, with 1.8 miles of tunnel under the Croe Water.

Campaigners had wanted the long-term solution completed by May 2024 but while a timeline has not been given for the scheme, in 2020, officials said that it may take ten years for a permanent solution to stop landslides on the iconic road.

It is understood that officials confirmed it did not expect to start on the new route until nearer 2025.

But what is happening in the meantime?

The A83 at the Rest has been until recently been operating on a traffic lights system. When there are further concerns road managers set up a convoy system.

Only when there are the most serious concerns do road managers divert to the Old Military Road, which was originally built by General George Wade in response to the Jacobite uprisings in the 18th Century.

The Herald:

Earlier this year, ministers said they were looking to increase the resilience of the temporary diversion route along the existing OMR in the medium term.

The first phase of implementing the medium-term solution was to begin some time this year with realignment of the southern end of the route.

It was said that this will increase resilience of the temporary diversion route by reducing the likelihood of closures due to flooding, meaning "more certainty" for locals and road users if the A83 has to shut due to adverse weather conditions.