Kintyre business leaders call for quick fix to ‘crisis’ at the Rest

The A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful was closed for more than 200 days last year because of landslips.

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Business leaders from across Argyll, including several from Kintyre, have joined forces and are demanding the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity commits to delivering a quick and permanent solution for the Rest and Be Thankful section of the A83.

The Rest and Be Thankful Campaign was launched this week by Inverneill resident John Gurr and a number of business leaders from across the region, including Colin Craig of West Coast Motors, Peter McKerral of Peter McKerral & Co Ltd, Duncan Macalister of Glenbarr Farms, Matthew Mundell of B Mundell Hauliers, Kenny MacLeod of MacLeod Construction, Andrew Spence of Bid4Oban, Keith Campbell of Argyll Holidays, Charles Black of Black of Dunoon, and Jane MacLeod, secretary of the Mid Argyll Chamber of Commerce.

The group behind the campaign welcomes Michael Russell MSP and Robin Currie, leader of Argyll and Bute Council’s recent request to Michael Matheson to scrap the 10-year recovery plan and implement a timescale of two to five years. However, the group is asking for a completion date of May 2024.

Other demands from the local business leaders include ensuring the outcome of the current Transport Scotland Rest and Be Thankful review delivers a permanent solution along the Glen Croe route and a temporary solution in place by no later than May 2021.

Speaking after the launch this week, Mr Gurr said: ‘The lack of interest in seriously fixing this stretch of road by the Scottish Government is hugely disappointing and is having a direct impact on our communities, local economy and business opportunities both now and in the future.

‘Through this group and The Rest and Be Thankful campaign, we hope to have a stronger voice and collectively demand immediate action to the constant disruptions caused by landslides and slips at the Rest and Be Thankful.

‘This is a call to action for all businesses in Argyll, big or small. We need your support.’

Peter McKerral, director at Kintyre-based haulage company Peter McKerral & Co Ltd, said: ‘As a business reliant on the Rest and Be Thankful, we have been dealing with Transport Scotland for over 10 years. We have offered a range of temporary solutions, including the use of the forest road on the opposite side of Glen Croe, an area clear of the landslide deposit. This and other solutions have continued to fall on deaf ears.

‘The new £1 million barrier wall on the Old Military Road (OMR), which was supposed to be the solution, hasn’t worked and was evident at the weekend when the OMR was closed due to landslides. This is a wasted investment, and the project should be an absolute embarrassment to whoever is in charge.’

Colin Craig, managing director at Campbeltown-based bus operator West Coast Motors, said: ‘The Rest and Be Thankful is a key transport artery which provides vital links to communities across Argyll and Bute whilst connecting the area to the rest of mainland Scotland. A 10-year plan to fix a mile of road is ludicrous and dangerous.

‘In 2020, the main A83 Rest and Be Thankful was closed for over 200 days, this is a record breaking 300 per cent increase from the previous year and clearly demonstrates the mitigation measures are not working and immediate action to fix the road is needed.’

Duncan Macalister, owner of Glenbarr Farms, said: ‘In the past six months, Transport Scotland has woken up to a long-term solution to the issues at the Rest and Be Thankful. Whilst this is good news, we need an interim solution while a permanent solution is delivered, this should be completed by May 2024 and not the projected 10 years.’

Matthew Mundell, operations manager at B Mundell Haulage which has a Tarbert depot, added: ‘It is baffling to understand why the Scottish Government is not taking the landslides and slips at the Rest and Be Thankful seriously, especially after the fatal landslide in Stonehaven last year.

‘The level of debris recorded last year was 20,000 tonnes, up 15,000 tonnes from 2019, this is expected to increase to a dangerous 100,000 tonnes. Immediate action is required now, not in 10 years.’

For more information, visit https://therestandbethankfulcampaign.com/ or the campaign group’s social media accounts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/crisisattherest or Twitter at twitter.com/CrisisRest