Answers to frequently asked questions on this project are shown below. If you can't find an answer to your question, you can contact our project team:
- by email at A83@wsp.com
- or by phone on 0131 316 8293, Monday to Friday between 9 am - 5pm.
The A83 Trunk road is a major 98 mile/158 km road in the south of Argyll and Bute in the Scottish Highlands. The A83 is a vital artery route through Argyll, running from Tarbet on the western shore of Loch Lomond, where it splits from the A82, to Campbeltown at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsular. The highest point along the route is known as the Rest and Be Thankful, separating Glen Kinglas and Glen Croe.
The section of the A83 between Ardgartan and the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint car park has a history of hillside instability, in particular the slopes above the Rest and Be Thankful. Following several landslides in August 2020, one of which was the largest recorded in the area in the last 20 years, Jacobs Aecom were commissioned by Transport Scotland to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and provide preliminary engineering support services (PES) of route corridor options for access to Argyll and Bute including the A83 Trunk Road.
A preliminary assessment of all 11 route corridor options for improving access to Argyll and Bute and identifying a long-term solution to the ongoing problems at the Rest and Be Thankful has been completed and a Preliminary Assessment Report published.
Following this report and the over 650 responses to the public consultation on the scheme, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity announced a preferred route corridor on 18 March 2021 – this is Route Corridor 1 through Glen Croe.
After the preferred route corridor was announced, feedback was received on five route options which included tunnels, viaducts and debris flow shelters. This feedback helped inform the assessment process and the preferred route was announced in Spring 2023.
We have undertaken substantial short-term investment in the existing A83 including installing a debris cage and new culvert, construction of an additional catchpit, debris fencing and flood mitigation measures at the Croe Water crossing.
Whilst detailed assessment of the preferred route is underway, Transport Scotland is progressing with the medium-term solution, which will see improvements made to the Old Military Road. The medium-term solution was announced in December 2022 and will deliver a safe and more resilient diversion route when the long-term solution is constructed. We are working at pace to ensure the medium-term improvements will start on site before the end of 2023.
The project’s key messages and the sub-messages that support them:
We are committed to developing long-term resilient and sustainable connectivity to Argyll and Bute
- Need to mitigate disruption to road users and the economic impact to the area from road closures along the A83 Trunk Road - a lifeline route to Argyll - particularly at the Rest and Be Thankful.
- Have launched project to deliver an alternative route to the existing A83 in parallel with the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2).
- STPR2 takes a national overview of the transport network with a focus on regions and will help delivery the vision, priorities and outcomes set out in the National Transport Strategy.
- In parallel with developing a long-term resilient solution both short-term and medium-term proposals are being developed.
We are committed to addressing the challenges at the Rest and Be Thankful section of the A83
- The slopes above the Rest and Be Thankful section of the A83 have a history of hillside instability.
- It is one of the places in Scotland with the highest risk of landslides and debris flow hazards.
- Recently it appears that severe weather (heavy and prolonged rainfall) and the associated landslips are becoming more frequent.
- A diversion route along the Old Military Road has been in operation since 2013, but has also been affected by landslides and closed as a result recently.
- If landslides close the A83 and Old Military Road, the standard diversion route along the A82, A85 and A819 is up to approximately 60 miles – we understand the disruption and frustration this causes.
Eleven route corridor options were considered to address issues at the Rest and Be Thankful and develop long-term resilient access to Argyll and Bute
- The route corridor options included a route corridor through Glen Croe where the existing A83 passes, but also other route corridors reflecting that there may be benefits from a different access to Argyll and Bute.
- We invited feedback on these options from stakeholders and the public via an online consultation launched on 23 September and running until 30 October 2020.
- Aim of the online consultation was to gather local information to inform the development of new access to Argyll and Bute as a long term sustainable and resilient alternative to the A83 Rest and Be Thankful.
- We also invited views on any other options they should be considering.
A preferred route corridor was announced 18 March 2021, and a consultation on the recommendation and possible route options
- The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity announced on 23 September 2020 that Transport Scotland would be taking forward the development and assessment work required to deliver an alternative infrastructure solution to the existing A83.
- He announced the preferred route corridor and his commitment to progressing substantial shorter-term and medium-term investment in the existing A83 and Old Military Road diversion in tandem with work to identify a permanent solution as part of a two-phased approach.
- The work involves a Strategic Environmental Assessment and preliminary engineering and traffic assessments, with the SEA containing the preferred route recommendation issued for consultation in Spring 2021.
- In recognition of the importance of pushing forward with this work, we have also started to consider five possible route options within the preferred route corridor.
The preferred route was announced in Spring 2023
Public exhibitions were held in June 2023 and the preferred route is available to view online.
We welcome your comments and feedback on the preferred route. Please provide any comments you may have as soon as possible and by 28 July 2023. Feedback can be provided via the virtual exhibition or by downloading the feedback form on the Transport Scotland website.
The project will engage with directly affected communities and businesses
- We launched a new project website on 23 September 2020 for the design work and where details of the 11 route corridor options could be viewed.
- Invited feedback from stakeholders and the public on these options and any others they wish to be considered.
- Input from stakeholders is vital to help gather the type of local background information required.
- As part of the ongoing public engagement, we have launched an interactive Storymap which will be developed and added to as the design moves forward and this will keep local communities and road users informed of progress on the project. The Story Map can be found here: Access to Agyll and Bute (A83) Story Map.
- A virtual exhibition room is available for all to view and provide feedback on the preferred route, which was announced in Spring 2023.
Questions & Answers
Q1 What are the current issues facing the A83 Trunk Road?
A1 The A83 is the primary route to Argyll. The highest point along the route is known as the Rest and Be Thankful, separating Glen Kinglas and Glen Croe.
The section of the A83 between Ardgartan and the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint car park has a history of hillside instability, in particular the slopes above the Rest and Be Thankful. If landslides close the A83, the standard diversion route along the A82, A85 and A819 is up to approximately 60 miles. This causes disruption for road users and has an economic impact on the area.
Recently it appears that severe weather (heavy and prolonged rainfall) and the associated landslips are becoming more frequent.
There are other locations on the A83 where there have been landslides including Glen Kinglas and Cairndow, and other sections of the route also have a high landslide risk.
Other problems on the A83 include sections of narrow road width, sections of poor road alignment and provision for pedestrians. Sections of the A83 also have a high accident rate, with the proportion of serious accidents above the national average rate for Killed and Seriously Injured severity.
Q2 What are the current issues with the wider transport network?
A2 The lack of a good standard of transport infrastructure and public transport provision is considered to be constraining growth in the region.
Travel times to/ from, within and through Argyll and Bute under normal conditions (i.e. with no disruption due to accident or incidents) can be long and/ or unreliable.
The long journey times are a function of the region’s geography, the quality of its transport infrastructure and the reliability of public transport services. There is potential for conditions on the transport network (such as on roads and/ or ferries) to worsen given the increase in slower moving traffic generated by the anticipated growth in key sectors including marine sciences, forestry, tourism, aquaculture, and the wider food and drink sector.
Q3 What work has been undertaken so far?
A3 As part of the £82 million invested in the maintenance of the A83 since 2007, over £13.6 million has been invested in landslide mitigation works at the Rest and Be Thankful, to help keep Argyll open for business by reducing the impact of landslides on the A83.
Subsequent landslide measures have seen the opening of the alternative military road, installation of nets, catchpits and improvements to drainage at this location. Construction of an additional roadside catchpit at the Rest and Be Thankful began in September 2021 and was completed in June 2023. This £3.4 million scheme provides an additional 1,800 tonnes of volume to collect debris flow from landslides, to add to the 19,400 tonnes provided in the current five catchpits.
We are also progressing a programme to proactively plant trees on the hillside to help reduce the risk of landslides in the area. Land purchase at the Rest and Be Thankful has been concluded and Transport Scotland is working with Forestry & Land Scotland to reintroduce the required local provenance native vegetation on the hillside.
Q4 I’ve heard that it could be up to 10 years before we have a permanent resilient solution in operation – this is too long so what’s being done in the meantime?
A4 We can understand the frustration felt by the local community caused by disruption along the A83 and in particular at the Rest and Be Thankful.
As part of the £87 million invested in the maintenance of the A83 since 2007, over £16 million has been invested in landslide mitigation works at the Rest and Be Thankful, to help keep Argyll open for business by reducing the impact of landslides on the road.
Subsequent landslide measures have seen the opening of the alternative Old Military Road when the A83 is closed, installation of nets, catchpits and improvements to drainage at this location. Construction of an additional roadside catchpit at the Rest and Be Thankful began in 2021 and was completed in June 2023. This £3.4 million scheme provides an additional 1,800 tonnes of volume to collect debris flow from landslides, to add to the 19,00 tonnes provided in the current four catchpits.
On 3 December 2020 the then Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson announced that construction was to start immediately on a new 175m landslide barrier adjacent to the local diversion to help bolster the resilience of this route. Work was completed in January 2021. More information can be found on the BEAR website.
We have also undertaken a programme to proactively plant trees on the hillside to help reduce the risk of landslides in the area. Transport Scotland is working with Forestry & Land Scotland to reintroduce the required local provenance native vegetation on the hillside.
Work is progressing to deliver a medium-term solution through Glen Croe to provide a safe and more resilient diversion route when the A83 is closed. In December 2022, the former Minister for Transport announced that the medium-term solution would consist of a programme of improvements to the Old Military Road. These improvements will reduce journey times by increasing the extent of two-way operation and improve the safety of the road by including landslide protection measures such as bunds and fences. These interventions will be in place prior to construction of the permanent, long-term solution to reduce the disruption to road users during the construction period. We are working at pace to ensure the medium-term improvements will start on site before the end of the year.
Q5 Why was the Brown Option chosen as the preferred route?
A5 Following the Stage 2 assessment, the Brown Option provides the following key benefits:
- Improved resilience and operational safety of the trunk road network by reducing the impact of disruption for travel to, from and between Argyll and Bute and the Central Belt of Scotland
- The greatest potential to be delivered quickly
- Most favourable performance across a broad range of environmental criteria, including; cultural heritage, visual, population and human health, climate, and materials and waste
- The greatest opportunity to encourage sustainable travel
Further information on why the Brown Option has been identified as the preferred route can be found in the DMRB Stage 2 report.
Q6 Why was Corridor 1 through Glen Croe chosen as the preferred route corridor?
A6 The preferred route corridor is more cost effective and quicker to deliver, having significantly less environmental constraints. In addition, while structural solutions such as shelters, tunnels or viaducts may be necessary in this corridor, these would be less technically challenging than the fixed links in other route corridor options. Assessment Summary Tables for each of the route corridors can be found in the Preliminary Assessment Report on our website.
Q7 How much will the project cost?
A7 The route option assessment has identified an estimated total scheme cost of between £405 million and £470 million for the preferred option. The cost estimate will be refined during the DMRB Stage 3 assessment process as the design is developed in more detail and detailed ground and survey information is gathered.
Q8 How will the project be funded?
A8 We will consider funding options and procurement routes as we progress the project through the next stage of development.
Q9 How were the options assessed?
A9 The work is being undertaken in accordance with the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) which is the UK-wide guidance used to develop and assess trunk road projects. The assessment work considers a range of environmental, engineering, traffic and economic factors and also considers the performance against the national and regional objectives.
Q10 What is the programme for the next stages of the assessment work?
A10 Following the preferred route announcement in Spring 2023, and conclusion of the DMRB Stage 2 assessment, we are now progressing with further assessment during DMRB Stage 3. This will include detailed ground investigation, ecological surveys and design development of sustainable travel facilities. The assessment will conclude with the publication of draft Orders and an Environmental Impact Assessment Report. We aim to complete this stage of assessment by the end of 2024. Transport Scotland will continue to take forward this work at pace and look to accelerate programme where possible.
Construction of the scheme can only commence once the statutory process is complete and a main works contractor is appointed.
Q11 What are the next steps for the project?
A11 Now that a preferred route option has been selected, detailed design and development will be progressed following the process set out in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges – DMRB Stage 3 – assessment of the Preferred Scheme.
Q12 How can local people/ businesses/ community representatives be involved in the development of a preferred route option?
A12 We are committed to placing public engagement and meaningful dialogue with affected communities and other stakeholders at the heart of the development and delivery of plans for improving the route.
As work on the project progresses, we will ensure that arrangements for participation by stakeholders and the public are inclusive, open and transparent. We will also encourage a wide range of participants to get involved and provide their comments and feedback at key stages.
Public exhibitions were held in June 2023, and a virtual exhibition room is available for you to view and provide comments on the preferred route. The exhibition material and feedback form is also available to download from the Transport Scotland website.
Q13 How will environmental impacts be mitigated?
A13 A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has been completed to assess the route-wide constraints, issues and opportunities for the project. The SEA Environmental Report identifies the likely significant effects on the environment, including on issues such as biodiversity; population; human health; fauna; flora; soil; water; air; climatic factors; material assets; cultural heritage, including architectural and archaeological heritage; landscape; and the inter-relationship between these issues. Activities undertaken as part of the SEA include:
- Collation of constraints around along the A83 and consideration of significant environmental issues and risks
- Habitats Regulations Appraisal to consider effects on SAC, SPA and Ramsar sites
- Assessment of flood risks
- Engagement with statutory bodies and other interested stakeholders
- Development of strategic environmental principles and mitigation guidance for later design stages
As the scheme progresses through the DMRB process, environmental assessment will be ongoing and influential. The results of the Stage 2 environmental assessment informed the route option selection process, and identified any potential significant impacts in relation to topics such as noise, biodiversity landscape and visual, the water environment, cultural heritage and impacts on agricultural land, are being taken forward for more detailed consideration within the final stage of the assessment process, the DMRB Stage 3 assessment, which is now underway.
During Stage 3 scheme development, environmental assessment and engineering design will be undertaken in parallel to provide interaction between prevailing environmental standards and the objectives of the development and to allow effective consideration of environmental issues throughout the design process. Where possible and reasonably practicable, potential adverse environmental impacts of the scheme during both construction and operation would be prevented through this iterative approach to the design process, rather than relying on measures to mitigate potential impacts. Where complete prevention of potential impacts are not feasible, mitigation measures will be set out in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report to reduce potentially significant effects.
Q14 How is the Scottish Government addressing climate change in relation to roads?
A14 The Scottish Government is committed to tackling climate change. It is fully acknowledged that the transport sector is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and that reducing emissions from all parts of the transport system is essential for meeting our climate change ambitions. The National Transport Strategy (NTS), which sets the direction for transport over the next 20 years, makes clear that our transport system will help deliver our ambitious climate change agenda and net-zero 2045 emissions target. In addition, the update to the Climate Change Plan published in December 2020 shows a commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030. To enable this, future transport investment decisions will be made in context of the Sustainable Travel Hierarchy which prioritises walking, cycling and public and shared transport options in preference to single occupancy private car.
The Scottish Government is also phasing out the need to purchase a petrol or diesel- powered car or van by 2030, a full five years ahead of the UK. A sustainable, low carbon transport network brings many additional benefits to communities and businesses. The Scottish Government is committed to maximising these co-benefits which means that individual transport projects should not be assessed in isolation but in combination with other projects and Scottish Government policies.
The Scottish Government needs to balance the extensive changes required to meet a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions with its duty to ensure that Scotland has a high quality and resilient transport system that meets the needs of all our population. As part of its current programme of infrastructure improvements the Scottish Government is committed to delivering sustainable and resilient strategic road connection into Argyll and Bute as an alternative to the current A83 at the Rest and be Thankful.
Q15 How is the environmental impact of a road scheme minimised?
A15 As part of the design and assessment of projects an Environmental Impact Assessment Report is published at the same time as the draft Road Orders are published.
The environmental impact assessment of each project gives consideration to potential impacts associated with the scheme including construction, consumption of material resources, and the production and management of waste during construction of the proposed scheme.
By applying key material and waste management principles, such as the waste management hierarchy, the impacts on natural resources and need for permanent disposal of wastes will be reduced. In particular, this will be achieved by re-using existing soils and infrastructure where possible, taking into consideration the environmental impacts of products during their procurement. Proposed mitigation measures developed as part of each scheme minimise materials use, maximise re-use and recycling of wastes and ensure all materials and waste are handled according to the regulatory requirements. These will be implemented through several plans addressing different aspects of construction site management, including a Site Waste Management Plan (SWMP) and a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP).
Q16 How will provisions for cyclists be considered?
A16 In line with the Scottish Government’s vision to promote active travel in A Long-Term Vision for Active Travel 2030, the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and the Trunk Road Cycling Initiative, suitable provision for all road users, including cyclists, is a large part of our major trunk roads projects.
Environmental mitigation and sustainable travel facilities, which will include bus and active travel, will also be incorporated into the preferred route design as part of the DMRB Stage 3 assessment where possible and appropriate.
Q17 What’s the status of improvements to the A82 between Tarbet and Inverarnan?
A17 The detailed development and assessment of the preferred option is well underway, which includes giving detailed consideration to mitigating disruption to road users during construction of this extremely challenging scheme. This preparation work is essential to ensure a robust scheme is produced in line with existing legislation, which considers the needs of individuals, road users and the local community.