Visitors and locals using one of Scotland’s most scenic routes face six months of delays from next week – which is the start of the peak tourist season.
Bear Scotland today announced it would be replacing nine bridges on the A830 – the Road to the Isles between Fort William and Mallaig in Lochaber – for Transport Scotland over the next few years at a cost of £10million.
And contractors will start work on the first one, which will be the Dearg Bridge, four miles west of Glenfinnan, on Monday.
Local people were pleased the work was being carried out, but disappointed to learn of the timing.
However, the road maintenance agency said it had to take place in the summer due to “environmental restrictions”.
Lochaber Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Lesley Benfield, said the chamber welcomed the investment in the structure of the A830, which is “a vital link to communities in the West and ferries to the Small Isles and Skye”.
But she pointed out that the work would now run through the visitor season, which is the busiest time of the year.
She said: “This will undoubtedly result in frustrating delays.
“This area depends on tourism and, although there is the promise of long-term improvements, more warning in advance of this work would have been welcome.”
Bear Scotland said the work had to take place during the summer months to protect the salmon population in Loch Eilt.
The existing bridge is to be replaced with a wider one that will comply with national standards and stone recovered from the old bridge will be used in the new structure to help it blend into its surroundings.
A diversion, using a temporary bridge, will be put in place during the work to minimise disruption. This temporary bridge will then be re-used at future bridge replacement works on the route.
There will also be temporary traffic lights to help maintain traffic flow and the speed limit will be reduced to 30mph.
Eddie Ross, who is Bear Scotland’s north west unit representative, said: “These works will be of significant benefit to the A830 and mark the start of a major investment programme in bridges along this lifeline route.
“Our design for the new bridge takes into account the environmental challenges of the location, recycles as much of the old bridge as possible and will create a low maintenance bridge designed to last 120 years.”