New concerns have surfaced over Scotland's most notorious road after it was confirmed that at least double the amount of debris has fallen on it from Saturday's landslips than the accident that sparked urgent calls for action.

Road maintenance contract BEAR Scotland's analysis of the amount of debris that has fallen onto the A83 has risen from 2,000 tonnes on Sunday to at least 12,000 tonnes.

Fears over the road hit fresh heights on August 4, 2020, when some 6,000 tonnes of debris cascaded onto the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful, at least 3,500 tonnes less than the latest episode.

Campaigners have said they have been 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.

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

It comes as concerns have expanded to the A816, which links the A83 to Oban, which is blocked due to a "phenomenal" landslide near Kintraw. Some have speculated that it would be closed for at least a month as 6000 tonnes fell on the road.

The Herald: Landslip on the A816.  Credit: Oban Mountain Rescue Team

Specialist engineers have been on site and identified further unstable material on the hillside above, including a number of potentially unsafe boulders, some weighing in excess of 70 tonnes.

Seven landslips hit the A83 on Saturday, one of which hit the Rest, while the rest occurred between two and 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.

Transport Scotland's road maintenance contractor BEAR Scotland had shut the crucial Highland artery at the Rest on Friday evening, fearing further landslides.

They sent 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.

The road was due to reopen by Monday, until the road engineers' fears were realised and so far there is no timetable for the A83 stretch between Inverary and the Rest to re-open.

BEAR is now clearing verges to make them safe and re-establish drainage. 

Geotechnical engineers have inspected the surrounding hillsides, using drones and personnel on the hills wherever possible.

BEAR said that the road will remain closed overnight and further assessments are expected on Wednesday morning.

Saturday's events marked the first major landslips since August 2020 which led to a series of closures.

The Herald: The notorious Rest and Be ThankfulFlashback to a past landslide.

By the end of August, 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.

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

But they are unlikely to get their wishes.

There has been anger over ministers "wasting" up to £130m over more than a decade on failed solutions to the landslide issue.

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

One campaigner said that the emerging extent of the landslips should spark ministers into action to "urgently" come up with an interim solution.

"There has been delay and delay over a permanent solution to this, and the more you look into what has happened here the more you feel that ministers must finally do something in the short term before someone is killed. There have been too many lucky escapes and enough is surely enough."

Pam Gosal, the Scottish Conservatives, deputy shadow cabinet secretary for finance and local government said: "There is a pressing need for a permanent, effective and timely solution."

Transport Scotland-appointed road maintenance contractor BEAR said on Saturday 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.

The other six 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. 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.

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

The Herald: The Smiths' Vauxhall Zafira

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.

Campaigners have called for a re-examination of 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.

About 1.3 million vehicles travel on the A83 every year and it acts as an important transport link for mainland Argyll as well as the Inner Hebrides.

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.

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

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 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.

Ian Stewart, BEAR Scotland’s north west representative, said, “Our teams have worked at pace, whenever it was deemed safe, to clear the roads and return full access to residents of Argyll. The operation has been very successful, however the Yellow warning for rain is still in place and for safety reasons, the A83 will remain closed..."

“We understand that access in and out of Argyll is vital for local communities, and we will provide an update tomorrow once the rain has passed.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The area around the A83 Rest and Be Thankful saw a month’s worth of rainfall, around 160mm, over 36 hours – and the fact that  12,000 tonnes of debris have already been removed from the road demonstrates our preparedness to respond when the worst does happen. The catch pits worked and the fences stopped around 2,500 tonnes of debris and have ensured that only a small amount reached the road at the Rest and Be Thankful itself. This section is now clear.

“We remain committed to delivering a long-term solution to the landslip risks at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful. Last week, the Cabinet Secretary visited the area to better understand the challenges and the Minister for Transport also chaired the latest A83 Taskforce meeting in Lochgilphead.

“There is a clear need for pace and urgency on delivering improvements for the communities and businesses who often feel the brunt of closure and the associated impacts that creates.”