TWO Canadian-based firms are to gain from a £25m Transport Scotland contract to provide advice and design management over a future solution to issues with landslips on Scotland's most notorious road.

The final award was given by the Scottish Government transport agency to a joint venture featuring Quebec-based consultants WSP and engineering and project management consultants Atkins, which is a subsidary of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin while a decision over a preferred solution is not due till next Spring.

While campaigners have been appealing for swift movement in creating a long-term resolution to the issues on the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful, it has emerged the contract was finalised, a year and three months after the Scottish Government's transport agency set a deadline for the management services to support the delivery of a new length of trunk road at the Rest and be Thankful.

Two years ago officials said that it may take ten years for a permanent solution to stop landslides on the iconic Scots road.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth has welcomed what was described as a "major milestone of Scottish Government investment" with the joint venture tasked with progressing design and development work.

But there has been a backlash over the new spend with some locals fearing it is a "waste of money".

Ministers have been previously accused of wasting over £80m in failed solution solutions to landslides on the road.

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.

One local campaigner said: "After all the farce of the millions that have been spent on temporary solutions, we are spending £25m more just to help decide on a route which is still not directly solving this problem that is costing livelihoods. It looks like more good money after bad with no light at the end of the tunnel in terms of even a decision on a preferred solution, let alone its completion."

A campaign - backed by 1500 businesses fought for a permanent solution by 2024 after an over 15-year failure to prevent disruption.

John Gurr, chairman of the Rest and Be Thankful Campaign, backed by business leaders from across Argyll, Kintyre, Mid Argyll and Cowal said it was "progress, but slow progress".

HeraldScotland:

"Last year Transport Scotland announced the same long term options they announced 10 years ago. We wonder how many more design stages will there be before we see an actual solution," he said.

"We want the government to announce the solution and set up a project to deliver it."

The A83 has been operating under a convoy system after a series of landslips that have put the important Highlands artery out of actions for weeks at a time.

Moves over installing a series of catch-pits aimed at preventing road closures came after a major landslip around 650 feet above the carriageway shut the road in August, 2020.

Engineers said thousands of tonnes of debris including car-sized boulders slid onto the road after 100mm of rain hit the Argyll hills.

One of the landslip mitigation catch-pits, built to prevent landslip material reaching the road, caught around 2,000 tonnes - but it did not stop thousands more tonnes hitting the road.

The slip ushered in a series of road closures for the important Highlands route which by January, 2021 had meant it was open for barely three weeks in the space of five months.

Between January, 2020 and February, 2021 the road had been closed due to landslides for 130 days.

Transport minister Graeme Dey said last year that improving the resilience of the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful "is one of our top priorities" and that they were continuing to work on a permanent long term solution to the issue.

Construction of a catch-pit on the road was completed last August having taken over twice as long to install as promised.

In February, last year, the A83 and the single track route that is used as a diversion under convoy, the Old Military Road was shut after hundreds of tons of debris fell in another landslip.

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.

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A new A83 route which could include a tunnel close to the A83 has been identified as the Scottish Government's favoured permanent solution - but it is a long-term solution which could take seven to ten years to complete after being approved.

That choice has led to five options on the table for the new Glen Croe route, some of which include tunnels up to 1.8 miles long.

Earlier this year a £1.8m contact was awarded to carry out preliminary ground investigations to help identify a long-term solution for the landslip-prone road.

Raeburn Drilling & Geotechnical Ltd was to undertake the work, which is part of further efforts to identify a preferred route option.

The Scottish Government's transport agency's route manager Neil MacFarlane recently told community leaders in 2021 that 2020 saw 20,000 tonnes fall onto the infamous road – double what has fallen in nearly two decades.

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

Ms Gilruth said: “It is clear that the Rest and Be Thankful needs an urgent solution, which will bring certainty to the lives of those directly impacted when the A83 is cut off.

“This investment from Scottish Government represents a significant milestone because it will allow the vital design work needed to commence at pace.

“Ministers share the urgency communities and businesses place on maintaining and improving connectivity of this vital route, which is why we are progressing measures for the short, medium and long term in tandem. “We will bring forward proposals for the medium term by the end of this year, with an announcement on the preferred route option for the long term by Spring 2023.”