New Zealand may hold A83 Rest solution

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By Mark Davey

An Argyll man has suggested the Scottish government could learn lessons from New Zealand to solve A83 Rest road closures.

In a letter to the Courier on Wednesday, Richard Stennett from Taynuilt, highlighted the Otira Gorge in New Zealand where a major road passes down a narrow mountain valley.

There avalanche shelters protect the road and a viaduct on pillars moves traffic into the middle of the valley, retaining the drive, through impressive scenery.

Mr Stennett wrote: ‘Yet again on October 9 Argyll was physically cut off from the outside world.

‘There were land slips on the Rest and Be Thankful (RABT), a road traffic accident and flooding on the A85.

‘Politicians promised a solution and have spent million of our pounds on inadequate fixes.

‘It is time for an imaginative fix for the RABT and I attach photographs of a solution to a similar situation at the Otira Gorge in New Zealand.

‘Our fragile links to the central belt can only have a negative affect on the viability of the area.’

On the A83 Facebook group Donald Morris has a more radical solution, a 3.9km single bore tunnel costing about £261 million.

Mr Morris writes: ‘This would solve the Rest and Be Thankful problems permanently and provide a long term, reliable solution not subject to the weather.

‘Costs are based upon Norwegian techniques. There are more than 900 tunnels and the methodology is well established.’

Tony Philpin from the  Isle of Gigha replied: ‘Very interesting, £70m per km, We would have been able to get EU structural funds for that in the old days….’

Stewart Dixon added: ‘What about the scenery. ‘We wouldn’t see anything in a tunnel.’

On Tuesday afternoon in the Scottish parliament Green MSP John Finnie called for priority investment in the repair and maintenance of the A83 at the RABT.

Mr Finnie said: ‘The Scottish government, and  the other three parties in parliament, support a lavish road building programme.

‘A staggering £8 Billion has been committed to completion of the M8, dualling of the A9, A96 and the new Aberdeen Bypass.

‘The public will note these vanity projects are going ahead while councils in the Highlands and Islands are receiving relative pennies to maintain important roads.

‘We must ensure a credible inspection, repair and replacement regime is put in place with the present network rather than build new roads.

‘The Scottish government will have to come up with a speedy and suitable alternative that delivers for the people of Argyll.’

As reported in last week’s Courier the A83 Task Force meets at 9.30am on November 15 at the Loch Fyne Hotel and the Scottish transport secretary, Michael Matheson is scheduled to attend.

A lorry travels down the highway in Otira Gorge New Zealand. Photo by Richard Stennett. NO_c43ottagorgeNZ01_rest_solution