A practical solution for the Rest problem?

The proposed tunnel would remove the need for a road clinging to the hillside and could lead to long-term cost savings.

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A chartered engineer with local knowledge and decades of business experience has come up with what he considers to be a practical solution to the Rest and Be Thankful problem.

It wouldn’t cost the earth, nor did it appear as one of Transport Scotland’s 11 alternative routes in the recent consultation.

That engineer also happens to be one of the biggest landowners in Argyll, Sir William Lithgow of Ormsary, former owner of Campbeltown Shipyard.

And he has the support of many prominent business figures across the region for his approach to the Rest.

Sir William said: ‘As a chartered engineer I felt I could do more than wring my hands at the blight induced over the area’s economy and wellbeing by the chronic failure of our lifeline route A83 at the Rest.

‘Mid Argyll, Kintyre, Cowal, Islay and Jura have many important economic players and headquartered locally. The islanders have the additional misfortune of ferry capacity being dislocated for their extension of this lifeline route.’

Sir William commissioned engineering firm Campbell of Doune Ltd to conduct a feasibility study into the A83 at the Rest.

Following field visits last month, the study concluded that a realignment of the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful, incorporating a 900-metre hard rock tunnel – from close to Loch Restil and coming out below the current car park viewpoint – constructed using Norwegian tunnelling methods, is feasible and worthy of further investigation.

The realigned road to the south of the tunnel within Glen Croe would be designed with
engineered attenuation to intercept landslides before they reach the line of the road. The residues of any landslides which reach the road would pass below elevated sections of carriageway.

The proposed A83 realignment would come at a projected capital construction cost of £54.6m.

The proposal has been put directly to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by Sir William. In a letter to Ms Sturgeon, he wrote: ‘Having formerly been involved in oversight of Norwegian technological services, I have been able to bring alongside the world’s best expertise in tunnel geology, engineering methods and cost control.

‘There will be refinement to be done and high tech surveying would reveal the anatomy of the terrain and nail down estimated costs and risk more accurately.

‘I am confident, however, that the capital cost will be recovered both in savings in the considerable ongoing taxpayer expenditure, and in the costs to the area of the ongoing disruption and blight.

‘Where there is a will there is a way. I hope that a local initiative can be pursued with all the expedition that WWII inculcated when the A83 was the lifeline for a vast and vital training area for the invasion of Nazi Europe.

‘The lifeline needs to be secured.’