Work on the £10 million phase two of Inverness’ West Link is “back on track” thanks to staff putting in extra hours over the festive period.
The project – which is delivering a radical overhaul of the approach road to the city from the A82 Fort William to Inverness road – has demanded a section of the Caledonian Canal be drained to allow for a new swing bridge to be constructed.
The creation of the new swing bridge, which will form part of the Torvean Gateway, will now mean motorists no longer have to wait in lengthy queues as water traffic seeks to pass through, with chiefs calling it the “golden triangle” for access to and from the city.
Colin Howell, Highland Council’s head of infrastructure, said the construction work being undertaken on the closed section of the canal represents a “major milestone” for the project.
He said: “We are delighted at the progress being made.
“The golden triangle for the West Link, as we are calling it, means that there will always be a bridge open for traffic and we will not have to wait for the bridge to open or close in the future.
“There is a good team in place comprising Highland Council, the contractor RJ McLeod – who are doing a very proactive job here and we are very pleased with the job they have done- and Capita, as the design we have been delivered is a very good quality design.”
The new Torvean Swing Bridge should be completed later this summer, when the six different components will be welded together.
Both the Tomnahurich Swing Bridge and the new Torvean Swing Bridge will take about one minute and 46 seconds to open, with disruption to be kept to a minimum for motorists.
Work to create a new Control Tower to control both bridges has already been completed, with construction firm Compass undertaking the work.
Water levels either side of the closure area of the canal are being monitored by an acoustic device, with the capability for 21 litres of water per second to be pumped into the canal to ensure water levels are maintained.
More than 2,000 fish have also been cleared from the closure area through means of electrofishing, with trout, lamprey and eels removed from the Caledonian Canal.
Steve Scott, project manager for Dingwall based RJ McLeod, praised the work of his 40-strong staff and said the project has allowed them to remain near to home for the project’s 18-month duration.
He added that the firm was “pleased” with progress. It has previously undertaken work further along the Caledonian Canal, at Dochgarroch.
Councillor Trish Robertson, chairwoman of the Highland Council’s economy and infrastructure committee, said she is encouraged to see work progressing.
She said: “Anything that relieves frustration and congestion for a major built-up area like this is wonderful.
“The community are looking forward to it opening. It’s not easy to live with the upheaval and it is nice to have something that is really environmentally friendly to look forward to once it is complete.”
Unique finds portray rich history
Bicycles, mobile phones, laptops and hundreds of golf balls were some of the items pulled from the drained canal – but the most interesting find came as archaeologists discovered cremation urns dating back more than 4,500 years.
They carefully inspected the remnants at the beginning of the project, with contractor RJ McLeod making every possible effort to keep disruption to a minimum.
They very carefully worked around the specialists as they excavated and documented the rare finds.
Project manager Steve Scott said: “These were relics that are over 4,500 years old.
“They were quite a find.
“The items were discovered very early in the project and, with it being such a big site, we were able to let the archaeologists under the finds as we worked around them.
“They brought more people in to help them and that allowed us to remain on schedule.”
Once complete, the area set aside for the current site office will be transformed into a car park.
It will offer visitors and locals easy access to new open space designed to be used by dog walkers, joggers and all members of the community.
Councillor Trish Robertson said the open-plan green space is “needed at this site” adding that she believes the locally-run park run will benefit hugely from a new location.
She said: “The car park is very much welcomed and I will be pleased to see that open.
“We have got a lovely area for families to come and enjoy which is really good and will be a big improvement.”