CONCERNS have surfaced over the effectiveness of plans to protect motorists on Scotland's most notorious road after seven landslips brought the route to a standstill.

Campaigners say they were warned by Transport Scotland officials that there was 100,000 tonnes of unstable material on the hillside above the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful just before the latest landslides which they say shows more needed to be done to ensure the safety of those using the road.

Transport Scotland's road maintenance contractor BEAR Scotland has said that there had been seven identified landslips which caused 2000 tonnes of debris to fall on the A83 on Saturday including one that reached the highway at the Rest which had been closed off on Friday as a safety precaution.

It is understood that the six other landslides occurred two to four miles north and west of where a planned £470m debris shelter is due to be built on the notorious Rest stretch of road as a key long-term measure to protect the road.

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

A mother and daughter who had a lucky escape on the road say they were hit by two landslides, the last of which was close to the A83 junction with the A815 - around four miles from the end of the proposed landslip shelter.

The Herald: Clean up operation is underway on the A83 near the junction with the A813,

Kiera Smith, 19, and mum Fiona, 44 from Campbeltown were travelling on the road on Saturday morning when their Vauxhall Zafira was hit.

A passing police officer attempted to help them both but could only scream “run” when the landslide came towards them and swept their car into a ravine.

Transport Scotland's road maintenance contractor BEAR Scotland had shut the crucial Highland's artery at the Rest on Friday evening, sending motorists onto a parallel 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.

But the measure did not stop road users from having their journeys curtailed on the route, with motorists having to go on long detours as landslides shifted away from where the shelter is due to be built.

Now campaigners say ministers should re-examine their plans to ensure that the road is properly protected from future problems.

Ten people were airlifted to safety after torrential rain caused multiple landslides on the A83 between Tarbet and Lochgilphead and on the A815 in Argyll and Bute.

On Sunday maintenance workers began a clear-up operation, where it was felt safe to do so, but there was no timeline for when the road would re-open.

The Herald:

Saturday's events mark the first major landslips since two brought about by rain blocked the road three years ago bringing the state of the road into the spotlight.

It has had to be shut periodically ever since.

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.

There have been concerns ministers are wasting up to £130m over more than a decade on failed solutions to the landslide issue.

READ MORE: A83 at Rest and be Thankful: Don't travel warning after landslides

Concerns have been raised about the millions spent 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.

Campaigners have long called for a full public inquiry to determine why the road is still not fixed to protect the route from landslides and have previously demanded past transport minister Jenny Gilruth to intervene to provide a shorter term solution.

A campaign backed by 1500 businesses has been pushing for a permanent fix for the landslip issues to be delivered by 2024.

Rest campaign chairman and local resident, John Gurr said recent events showed that even more needed to be done to protect the route.

"It [the landslips] have extended quite a way. What has happened is that the amount of rain has destabilised the hillside.

"It was good that we haven't had any casualties, from what I can understand, so that is a real positive.

"What Transport Scotland have done, they are monitoring the hillside and when we talked to them on Wednesday there is 100,000 tonnes of unstable material on the hillside, but the amount of rain we had hadn't so far been long enough or heavy enough to move it.

"That is an enormous amount of material That is five time what went down in 2020. So they have to do something there, but obviously there is a wider issue that needs to be looked at now. "

It is estimated nearly £100m has already been spent on temporary fixes that have failed to prevent the danger on the A83 at the Rest.

In January, ministers decided to spend £30m improving the current official diversion, the primarily single track OMR which locals and campaigners have consistently warned is not suitable especially for lorries, tankers and buses.

But campaigners have previously described the plan as “another waste of money” and that a new temporary two-way road could be built in the medium term - two years - at a higher cost that would work.

Another campaigner said: "We have waited too long for remedies for the issues on this road and it is only so far down to luck that nobody has been seriously hurt or killed. We have already seen one mother and child hit by a landslip, and this appears to be away from where there have been past problems. This only shows that the issues here are wider than expected.

"We cannot wait years to get this sorted out. We need effective solutions to this now."

The Herald: The proposed tunnel for the A83 and (inset) a flashback to a past landslipTransport Scotland's artist impression of the planned debris shelter and (inset) a flashback to a previous Rest landslide.

BEAR said that the latest wave of landslips came after a month's worth of rain, around 160mm, fell over 36 hours.

It was confirmed that four of the slips had been in the Butterbridge area of the A83, about two miles from northern end of the proposed Rest debris shelter while four others were near its junction with the A815 around four miles away.

BEAR say there were two further landslips at the Rest which was contained within debris pits and nets. Transport Scotland say 2500 tonnes of debris was caught.

Fears over the road hit fresh heights in January, 2020, when the A83 at the Rest was closed for two days after being covered by 1,300 tonnes of debris - leading to pleas for the road to be rerouted.

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

Moves over installing a series of catch-pits aimed at preventing road closures came the major landslip around 650 feet above the carriageway, with engineers saying debris including car-sized boulders had cascaded onto road after 100mm of rain hit the Argyll hills.

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.

The Herald revealed in 2021 that transport chiefs had spent some £8.5m on “wasted” temporary sticking plaster fixes to try to prevent landslips on the key road over the previous five years.

Up to 2020, some £15m had been invested in catch pits and other solutions along the A83 as part of a £79.2m spent on vital maintenance and resilience on the road since 2007.

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 Herald: A83 'tunnel'Another artist's impression of the planned debris flow shelter.

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.

The A83 at the Rest had been operating under a traffic lights system after a series of landslips over a number of years that have put the important Highlands route out of action for weeks at a time. The lights system ended more recently.

When there are further concerns road managers set up a convoy system on the A83 stretch.

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

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "Following an unprecedented amount of rainfall in a short period, the works undertaken on the [Rest] appear to have worked fairly effectively, catching a huge amount of debris, with only a small amount on the road. Our geotechnical engineers are currently assessing the hillsides at the other slip locations on the route and it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the outcome of those. The Old Military Road has remined open throughout this severe weather event, albeit Police Scotland was not to travel over the weekend.

“Ministers visited and met with the local community last week and heard first hand their concerns. The plans for upgrading the Rest were also discussed and this weekend’s severe weather highlights the need to ensure our options are fully considered and we continue to develop these.

“Our immediate focus is on restoring access to the communities affected by recent events and in ensuring that everyone using our road and rail networks and working in challenging conditions is kept safe.

“The Scottish Government remains committed to delivering a long-term solution to the landslip risks at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful. There is a clear need for pace and urgency on delivering improvements. The announcement in June of the preferred route option for the long-term solution was a significant confirmation of our commitment to improve the route.”