A83 Taskforce – Meeting Minutes – 25 January 2023
- Jenny Gilruth MSP (JG) – Minister for Transport
- Steven Lamont (SL) – Private Secretary to Minister for Transport
- Jenni Minto MSP (JM) – Scottish Parliament
- Kier Low (KL) – Constituency Assistant to Jenni Minto MSP
- Fiona Stage (FS) – Representing Brendan O’Hara MP
- Kirsty Watson (KS) – Representing Brendan O’Hara MP
- Cllr Maurice Corry (MC) – Argyll & Bute Council Provost
- Cllr Iain Shonny Paterson (IP) – Argyll & Bute Council
- Cllr Robin Currie (RC) - Argyll & Bute Council
- Jim Smith (JC) – Argyll & Bute Council
- Iain MacInnes (IM) – Lochgoil Community Council
- David Sumsion (DS) – Cairndow Community Council
- Gavin Dyet (GDy) – Transport Scotland
- Gordon Ramsay (GR) – Transport Scotland
- James Porteous (JP) – Transport Scotland
- Tanja Waaser (TW) – Transport Scotland
- George Fiddes (GF) – Transport Scotland
- Iain Adams (IA) – Atkins WSP Joint Venture
- Rory Gunn (RG) – Atkins WSP Joint Venture
- Ged Mitchell (GM) – BEAR Scotland
- Mike Baxter (MB) – BEAR Scotland
- Eddie Ross (ER) – BEAR Scotland
- Morag Goodfellow (MG) – Highlands and Islands Enterprise
- Kirsty Robb (KR) – Argyll Timber Transport Group
- Iain Catterwell (IC) – Argyll Timber Transport Group
- Gavin Dick (GD) – Inveraray Jail
- Colin Craig (CC) – West Coast Motors, Rest and Be Thankful Campaign Group
- Gordon Ross (GR) – Western Ferries
- John Hair (JH) – Forestry Land Scotland
- Iain Jurgensen (IJ) – AITC / Portavadie
- Duncan Macalister (DM) – National Farmers Union
- Ariane Burgess MSP
- Douglas Ross MSP
- Jackie Bailie MSP
- Donald Cameron MSP
- Jillian Brown - Argyll & Bute Council
- Pippa Milne - Argyll & Bute Council
- Jim Lynch - Argyll & Bute Council
- Cllr Dougie Philand – Argyll & Bute Council
- Cllr Donald Kelly – Argyll & Bute Council
- Kevin McIntosh – Argyll & Bute Council
- Lawrence Shackman – Transport Scotland
- John Gurr – Rest and Be Thankful Campaign Group
- Ranald Robertson – Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership
- Martin Reid – Road Haulage Association
- Jane MacLeod – Mid Argyll Chamber of Commerce
- Cathy Craig – Wild about Argyll
- Gordon Watson – Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park
- Actions from previous meeting
- BEAR Scotland Update
- Medium and Long Term Solution update
- General Discussion / AOB
Welcome extended to all attendees from Minister for Transport
The Minister for Transport, Jenny Gilruth (JG), welcomed all to the Taskforce meeting, noting this is the first meeting in person for some time. JG indicated she was keen to hear feedback from Taskforce on the Medium Term Solution (MTS) preferred option, which was announced in December 2022. The most important next step for the A83 Rest and Be Thankful is the Long Term Solution (LTS) preferred option proposals, which will be announced in Spring 2023.
JG invited Gordon Ramsay (GR) to note the apologies received for the meeting (see above).
Actions from previous meeting
JG discussed the outstanding actions from the previous Taskforce meeting noting:
- Action 1 – BEAR Scotland to confirm programme for removing traffic lights at Glen Kinglas.
- Traffic lights were removed on 5 November 2022.
- Action 2 – Transport Scotland (TS) to provide an indicative timeline showing a breakdown of a project’s programme.
- TS to present an example project timeline as part of today’s presentations (see 'Medium and Long Term Solution update')
- Action 3 – JG to identify a suitable deputy chair should she be unable to attend.
- JG noted she has not yet required a deputy chair but will identify an appropriate deputy chair if she is unable to attend any future Taskforce meetings.
JG confirmed there were no further comments from Taskforce members and moved on to next agenda item.
BEAR Scotland Update
JG invited Eddie Ross (ER) to provide an update on the ongoing short term mitigation works being carried out by BEAR Scotland.
- ER introduced himself as the Operating Company representative for BEAR Scotland North West and presented the BEAR Scotland update (See Annex 1), which covered hillside monitoring, ongoing works and wider A83 / A82 works programme of improvements.
JG invited questions from Taskforce members on the update from ER:
- David Sumsion (DS) asked why aren’t works on the barrier and resurfacing being carried out now in parallel with the catch pit works and will the road revert to two-way operation in June?
ER explained that, currently the safety fence along the centreline of the road is to protect road users until the pit is completed. Once the pit is completed the safety fence can be removed. This is a sequential process. Logistically it’s a tight site and the safety of the user and work force is paramount. The intention is for the road to revert to two-way operation in June once this is complete.
- Cllr Iain Shonny Paterson (IP) asked why do we divert to the Old Military Road (OMR) so often? Are current measures not sufficient if there was a landslide?
ER – the pit currently under construction and the fencing and other works installed to date will increase the resilience of the A83 to landslides. After works are completed the current process will be reviewed resulting in a change to the regime but there will still be some occasions where the OMR is required, however, this should be less often.
- IP asked are there any more pits planned for construction?
ER – discussions are ongoing with TS to finalise prioritisation of future works, considering the MTS and LTS options as they quickly develop.
- Colin Craig (CC) asked about the decision-making process to divert away from the A83 – how close was it to a landslide during recent wet weather? What does the BEAR Scotland website actually show? Does the website show detailed risk assessments that road users can use to make a decision on whether or not to use the road?
ER – The BEAR website shows an explanation as to how the monitoring system works, not detailed risk assessments. BEAR undertake continual and detailed monitoring of the hillside and will only allow traffic to continue to use the road when they believe it is safe to do so. Introducing a convoy system enables BEAR to control traffic movements and if there is any concern, appropriate action can be taken, including potentially diverting to OMR or the longer remote diversion.
During recent weather events, action was taken to move traffic to the OMR as a precautionary measure, until evidence suggested it was safe to return to the A83. Under no circumstances will traffic flow on the A83 if the ongoing assessment suggests there is a risk to road users.
- CC asked if it is correct to assume that if a landslide occurs, it will be a huge event, potentially taking out both the A83 and the OMR? This is causing concern for road users. Is there a point where the saturation levels would suggest closing the OMR as well as the A83?
ER – Extremely large landslides are rare and it would likely be a series of events. Notwithstanding, the hillside is being constantly monitored. Dependant on the level of risk considered immediate action is taken to either run the A83 in convoy, move all traffic to the OMR or in extreme conditions move traffic to the long diversion route completely away from this area, which was the action taken during the 2020/21 landslide events.
- Cllr Maurice Corry (MC) asked why can’t we improve the OMR to two lane operation? Why can’t we speed up decision making process? This is damaging to tourism in Argyll and Bute. MC also asked how much has been spent on the hillside?
GR – in relation to the first question, with regards to road widening, as part of the MTS, one of the OMR improvements is to increase the length of the two lane road. Due to the existing slopes and bends, to widen the most north westerly section on the approach to the Rest and Be Thankful car park would require extensive earthworks and complex engineering which would not be proportionate for a MTS and would push the scale of the works into that of LTS options.
JG confirmed that MC’s point on speeding up the process is a good one and all efforts are being made to ensure the correct decision is confirmed in the quickest possible time. New consultants were appointed last year. Total spend on mitigation measures and improvements on Rest and Be Thankful so far is approximately £16m since 2007, which is a significant investment. A preferred LTS solution is due to be announced this spring. JG reaffirmed that the Scottish Government understands this is a challenging project and is aware of the challenges to the local community, and how this impacts tourism and bus operators. JG acknowledged this is a lifeline route for the community.
- MC asked JG to confirm in the coming weeks we will have a preferred route for LTS?
JG confirmed that Atkins WSP Joint Venture (AWJV) will bring forward proposals for the LTS by Spring 2023.
GR added that the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) Stage 2 assessment to identify a preferred route option will be announced by Spring 2023.
- MC asked how long after this announcement will it take for the money to be put in place and the first spade put in the ground?
GR confirmed a typical timeline will be presented during the TS presentation today (Agenda Item 4) showing indicative timescales for a large scale infrastructure project.
- MC asked can we get a spade in the ground this year in terms of the LTS?
GR – No, considerable work is required before construction. DMRB Stage 3, engineering and Environmental Impact Assessments need to be completed along with the Statutory Process. Following this, a procurement exercise needs to be undertaken prior to construction commencing. The work to identify and justify the preferred route needs to be robust to stand up to challenge from any potential objectors.
- MC asked if tunnels are being investigated?
GR confirmed two of the options under consideration include tunnels.
- DS asked if in June when current works are completed, is the intention for the A83 to operate as a two lane road?
ER – yes.
- IP asked if – on East side of the valley, through forestry track, core samples are being taken, is this TS?
JG – TS is not aware of these works but will investigate and confirm.
Action – TS to confirm purpose of core samples being taken.
- Duncan Macalister (DM) asked in the event something catastrophic goes wrong at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful (RaBT), who is responsible?
JG confirmed that Scottish Government is ultimately responsible for maintaining and operating the A83.
- Iain Jurgensen (IJ) asked if a recent landslip resulted in the extension of the traffic lighted area or was this due to the progressive movement of the hillside?
ER confirmed that the extension of the traffic lights was due to the progressive movement of the hillside.
- IJ asked at what point were the traffic lights extended? Is consideration being made to extending traffic lights? In terms of safety of people using the route, are the lights in the right place to ensure safety of standing traffic should there be a significant slip? If traffic is stopped at the lights, can they feel safe?
ER responded that this is a fair point and forms part of the overall consideration. Ongoing monitoring shows potential areas of movement on the hillside. Traffic lights are moved accordingly to manage safety risk. The RaBT suffers from negative press and social media posts on things that might not be happening, which isn’t helpful.
JG followed up confirming an action to improve communication from BEAR to make sure people know the road is open and safe.
Action – BEAR Scotland to improve communication in the area. TS to monitor and liaise where appropriate.
- IJ confirmed that the signs at Strachur and Inveraray still shows OMR is in operation, despite this not being the case. Two emergency recovery vehicles are in operation during OMR usage. How often are these used and how much does this cost?
ER noted that he will investigate the signs mentioned. ER noted that very rarely do we need to recover vehicles from verges. Anecdotal evidence shows recovery is typically due to driver error. Usage of recovery vehicles is not common but impact should a vehicle break down is significant, hence their presence on site so they can recover a vehicle very quickly.
- CC stated there is a heightened sense of fear in the community recently. Staff are now asking if the RaBT is safe to drive.
ER responded that the OMR is being used more proactively due to increased wet weather forecasts. This proactive measure does potentially have the side effect of a build-up of negative press but it is done to ensure the safety of all road users.
- CC suggested is it also because of the lack of faith in the mitigation measures?
JG reinforced the action point taken to improve communications on the usage, operation and mitigation measures used on road to improve press.
Medium and Long Term Solution update
JG asked Gordon Ramsay (GR) to present an update on the MTS and LTS works that are ongoing, including the MTS announcement in December 2022.
- GR delivered an update on MTS and potential phasing of the OMR interventions, and invited Rory Gunn (RG) and Iain Addams (IA) from AWJV to present more detail on OMR interventions and the LTS design development work ongoing.
A copy of this presentation can be found in Annex 2.
Following the conclusion of this presentation, JG invited questions from the Taskforce:
- Cllr Robbin Currie (RC) stated it was unfortunate that the MTS announcement came out so close to Christmas and stakeholders were not informed directly.
JG responded noting the handling could have been improved, but that the announcement was made within committed timeline.
- RC asked when will works start / finish? What happens when the A83 is closed and the works are ongoing on the OMR? Are the moneys guaranteed for MTS and LTS or is it a possibility that all this work goes in and the work does not go ahead?
GR responded that in terms of dates and timelines for MTS, this is being developed and an announcement will be made as soon as these are confirmed. Phase 1 will likely start later this year and a more detailed timeline will be shared going forward. Ensuring the OMR can be made available as quickly as practical when it is needed is a key part of the MTS design development and phasing work. Close liaison between the contractor and the Operating Company will be maintained, as evidenced by the Ground Investigation works carried out last year.
JG stated that moneys are guaranteed, however, noted that inflationary pressures are having an impact on wider Scottish Government. The Government has seen across other projects that costs have increased by up to 40% from where we were last year. JG confirmed that this project is a priority project and finances will be put in place for MTS and LTS.
- Iain McInnes (IM) thanked all for the presentations and update, and asked at the top of the RaBT car park, if works are ongoing on MTS, how will this impact tourism using the car park at the top of the Rest and bus movements?
CC responded confirming that this bus stop can’t be used when the OMR is in use.
JG confirmed that TS will continue to work with the community moving forward.
GR confirmed that the OMR will only be used if and when the A83 is closed, similar to the current situation.
- IM asked GR to confirm if the car park be will be closed when works on the OMR are ongoing?
GR confirmed that it is unlikely the car park will closed any more often than is currently the case when OMR is in operation, but this will be assessed going forward as more detail on the improvements becomes available. GR confirmed that TS is aware of the importance and significance of the car park and bus stop and will ensure this is part of the overall design and assessment work for both the MTS and LTS.
Action – Transport Scotland to confirm plans for the RaBT car park.
- IM asked when OMR is in operation, the car park is currently closed, will this be the case moving forward?
GR responded that it will be similar to current situation.
- Gavin Dick (GD) stated that his concern is the risk of loss of life. If this was a business, it wouldn’t be given 10 years to fix. If this was a bridge to Holyrood, this wouldn’t take 10 years to implement. This process should be accelerated.
JG responded that concerns over timescales are being addressed, however, the processes outlined are ones that need to be undertaken, and we cannot ignore or skip these legal processes. JG indicates that the Taskforce heard from AWJV about investigating shortening these DMRB stages, and these investigations are ongoing.
RG confirmed the decision making at DMRB stage 2 must be as robust as possible, which may help to shorten the statutory processes stage in the future.
- JG asked RG to confirm if it is correct that some options may take longer but potentially provide better outcomes?
RG confirmed that yes, some options may take longer to construct than others, and this is being assessed at present in order to be taken into account in the comparative assessment.
- IJ asked that given the amount of work happening now and planned, is any consideration being made to providing permanent welfare facilities in this area, possibly at the RaBT car park?
JG responded that it’s something that can be investigated.
RG stated at this point in time this isn’t being considered in detail, but it will be investigated as part of a community benefits plan that will be developed in more detail during the DMRB Stage 3 design process and could be taken forward into procurement and construction.
- DS stated that in terms of the discussion about risk – we’ve been at this for many years, and would like some clarification for what happens after June? Will the switch to the OMR be less frequent? Will the A83 be open 99% of the time?
JG confirmed that hopefully this will be the case.
ER followed up that after June the management plan will change. This will still include investigation and monitoring of the hillside to ensure safety of all road users.
- MC stated communication is terribly important because we aren’t getting the proactive PR out there. There needs to be more positive stories about the good work being done in order to get more support.
CC added that he very much echoes that statement. It sounds like MTS is more mitigation, let’s now switch focus to the LTS and the permanent solution. CC stated that terminology could be improved, again, tying in with improved communications.
JG – real point to be taken from this Taskforce meeting is to improve communications, action point taken above.
- IP stated he was speaking to a constituent last week and someone missed a hospital appointment in Glasgow due to delays. Can buses / public transport be prioritised when the OMR is in use?
JG responded that this is for bus operators to manage.
CC stated this will depend on what vehicles are approaching from the other side and noted this was more an operational challenge. Cyclists are causing delays to buses using the OMR diversion. Tighter controls of cyclists would be helpful.
General Discussion / AOB
- JG asked if Taskforce members would prefer future Taskforce meetings to be held in person or virtually?
General consensus was for this to be held in person in future. IJ also requested the next meeting be held in a hybrid manner. JG noted this would be considered.
- JG thanked all for attending, and confirmed TS will circulate the minutes of the meeting shortly. The next Taskforce meeting will be arranged for June 2023 to coincide with the timing of the announcement of the preferred route option for the LTS.
Annex 1 BEAR Scotland Presentation
Slide 1 - Introduction
Meeting Number 23
Location: Three Villages Hall, Arrochar
25 January 2023
Operating Company Representative
Slide 2 – Presentation Summary
- Ongoing hillside monitoring and management
- Update on current works
- Wider A83 / A82 works programme
Slide 3 – Hillside Monitoring and Management
- Route operated under either traffic signals or convoy during wet weather when greater control necessary.
- Regular use of the Old Military Road Local Diversion Route when saturation increased.
- More information on the A83 Rest and Be Thankful – Managing Trunk Road Operation
Slide 4 – Hillside Monitoring and Management
- Expert weather forecasting
- Site team observations on hillside condition and watercourse flows
- Hillside movement surveys and observations
- Ground saturation estimates
- Daily decision-making
Slide 5 – Hillside monitoring and Management
Slide 6 – Hillside Monitoring and Management
Slide 7 – Hillside Monitoring and Management
Slide 8 – Current Works
Slide 9 – Current Works – Debris Pit
- Construction of the catch-pit continues in a very challenging environment.
- Work is paused during wet weather for the safety of the workforce.
- It is currently anticipated catchpit works will be completed in May 2023.
- Remaining works will be completed in June 2023.
- Watercourse realignment,
- Removal of centreline barrier,
- Installation of new road restraint system,
- Resurfacing / lining of the carriageway
- Prioritisation of future work is underway.
Slide 10 – Current works – Tree planting – Forest and Land Scotland
- Phase 1 ongoing, delayed by weather conditions. To be completed next month (February 2023).
- Phase 2 to commence early February 2023. Aim is to be completed before December 2023.
- Phase’s 3 & 4 to commence in 2023/2024.
- Larch disease requires two large sections of trees to be removed south of RabTH.
Slide 11 – Wider A83 / A82 (South) Programme
- Total A83 investment since September Taskforce - £2.0m
£0.62m of further A83 investment planned for remainder of 2022/23 FY
- Total A82 (Tyndrum to Balloch) investment since September Taskforce - £0.64M
£0.43M of further A82 investment planned for remainder of 2022/23 FY
Annex 2 – Transport Scotland / AWJV Presentation
Slide 1 - Introduction
Access to Argyll and Bute (A83) Project
Medium and Long Term Solutions
Slide 2 – Medium Term Solution
- Following the landslides in 2020 and early 2021 the longer A82/A85/A819 was required to be used for 16.5 days and 46.5 nights
- Recognising the frustration to communities and businesses it was announced in March 2021 Transport Scotland would take forward a medium term solution.
- The purpose of the medium term solution is to deliver a safe, proportionate and more resilient diversion route for use if the A83 is closed.
- The medium term solution never committed to being two way and providing unrestricted access all year round, that is what the long term solution aims to do.
Slide 3 – MTS – Preferred Route
- On 23 December 2022 it was announced that the preferred option for a medium term solution is improvements to the Old Military Road.
- OMR interventions will increase resilience through the reduction of the likelihood of landslides impacting the OMR or flooding events closing it.
- The OMR interventions are smaller scale, discrete improvements in comparison to the other options, so the technical engineering, environmental and constructability impacts of the scheme are less significant and complex than the other options overall.
- The journey times expected are slightly less than when the existing OMR is in operation due to the slightly longer length of two lane operation proposed.
- As these are online improvements, they are significantly less costly than the new two lane offline Option 2 on the south-western slope, but slightly more costly than upgrades to the single lane forestry track Option 1.
- It is the quickest to construct.
Slide 4 – MTS Programme and Procurement
- Currently developing a programme and procurement strategy to progress these works as quickly as possible.
- Looking to progress a 3 phase approach:
- Phase 1 – realign the OMR at the southern end at its junction with the A83 avoiding the area prone to flooding.
- Phase 2 – landslide mitigation including bunds/debris fences as well as drainage improvements and discrete widening of bends.
- Phase 3 – extend the length of road available for two way traffic
- The above is dependant upon obtaining the necessary consents.
Slide 5 – Medium Term Solution Update
Slide 6 – Medium Term Solution Update
Constructability Review of Options
- Temporary works footprint and associated impacts
- Safety of road users and construction workforce
- Plant, materials, equipment, methods, sequencing and programme of operations
- Interface and operation of A83 and OMR during construction
Slide 8 – Long Term Solution Update
Long Term Solution Options
- Pink – Tunnel Option
- Green – Forestry Track Option (Debris Flow/Viaduct)
- Yellow – Viaduct Option
- Purple – Tunnel and Viaduct Option
- Brown – Debris Flow Shelter Option
Slide 9 – Long Term Solution Update
Emerging outcomes from review
Brown Option: Detail of debris flow shelter developed to ensure long term operation and maintenance of structure. Design refinement to remove viaduct at western end due to steep terrain.
Green Option: Identified need for up to 2.5km of debris flow shelter to ensure resilience and two approx. 400m long bridges near southern and northern extents. Detail of Debris flow arrangement similar to that of Brown Option to ensure long term operation and maintenance.
Yellow Option: Steep terrain between A83 and OMR a significant challenge to bridge pier construction. Leading to moving alignment toward lower part of Glencroe (higher bridge piers sited on less steep terrain).
Pink Option: Realignment of A83 at southern end to improve interface between tunnel portal and A83.
Purple Option: Realignment to improve southern tunnel portal and viaduct interface between A83 and OMR.
Slide 10 – Typical Large Scale Roads Project Stages and Timeline
DMRB Stage 1 - 1-2 years (completed for A83 scheme in March 2021)
DMRB Stage 2 - 1.5 - 2 years (green box depicting current position of A83 scheme)
DMRB Stage 3 - 1.5 - 2 years
Statutory process - 1-2 years (subject to statutory process and need for PLI)
Procurement - 1 year (subject to procurement route)