A83 Taskforce (Update)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 23 January 2019.

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Photo of Donald Cameron Donald Cameron Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update following the last meeting of the A83 taskforce. (S5O-02794)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I chaired a meeting of the A83 taskforce on 15 November 2018. There was a full and frank discussion and I appreciated the opportunity to listen to local concerns.

At the meeting, I made a commitment that the Argyll and Bute region would be prioritised in the forthcoming strategic transport projects review 2. I also announced that we will review the potential for additional physical landslide mitigation measures at the Rest and Be Thankful. I asked Transport Scotland officials to report back to me by mid-February with the findings of the review to enable discussion of the findings at the next taskforce meeting with local and regional stakeholders on 27 March 2019.

Since 2007, we have invested £70 million in the maintenance of that trunk road, including £11 million on landslide mitigation measures at the Rest and Be Thankful and on the local Old Military Road diversion. Those measures have worked, having already successfully stopped landslip material from reaching the road and keeping that important route open for an estimated 50 to 60 days when it would otherwise have been closed.

Photo of Donald Cameron Donald Cameron Conservative

The cabinet secretary will be aware that, as the winter snap begins to hit, routes in the Highlands and Islands region, such as the

Rest and Be Thankful stretch of the A83, will inevitably become more treacherous. Given that there is some scepticism about the mitigation measures, what assurances will he give to frustrated residents and businesses that they will be able to travel that route without fear of major delays or road closures?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I am surprised about Donald Cameron’s reference to scepticism, because the mitigation measures that have been taken follow those that were recommended by the taskforce, which includes local stakeholders. That work continues to be implemented and the sum of almost £4.5 million has been spent on additional measures that are being put into place.

The history of the site is clear—there have been significant problems as a result of landslides. The mitigation measures have had a positive impact. They had not eliminated all the material but, for example, the catch-pits that continue to be installed will provide additional resilience and assurance. The review work that is being undertaken at present by Transport Scotland and its expert advisers will inform us whether there are further measures that we can put into place to mitigate landslide risk on that route.