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‘The last thing we need is more consultants’: Transport Scotland criticised over £25m tender for Rest and Be Thankful

Road works on the A83 where the landslides have occurred.
Road works on the A83 where the landslides have occurred.

Transport Scotland has been criticised after launching a £25million tender for consultancy services at the Rest and Be Thankful.

The public body is seeking to appoint a consultant to help develop a long-term solution to the landslide-prone A83 Tarbet to Campbeltown trunk road in Argyll.

But Oban-based Councillor Roddie McCuish said: “The last thing the A83 needs is more consultants.”

He was speaking at a meeting of Oban Community Council, where he said Transport Scotland should “get on with the job in hand”.

Last month the agency announced that the preferred route to replace the Rest road would be through the same glen as the existing one.

‘Absolutely shocked’

Mr McCuish said: “Everyone knows what is needed. The preferred route has been highlighted as through Glen Croe on the other side.

“I am absolutely shocked they are spending that amount on consultants. But given the amount of money they have already spent on the Rest and Be Thankful with no permanent result I shouldn’t really be surprised.

“They are saying it is going to take 10 years. I would urge Transport Scotland to get on with the job in hand. Do the businesses of Argyll and Bute need to wait another 10 years to get this road fixed?

“I think it should be the first thing the new parliament does as soon as it is elected. They should prioritise this road.

“If we wait for another 10 years they are going to continue spending money on the already failed solution at the existing road.”

Andrew Spence, chief executive of Bid4Oban, added: “Not only are the consultants going to be paid £25million, the project is for 10 years.

“While Oban has an alternative route – although not very good, the A82 – the rest of Argyll is really struggling, particularly Kintyre and Mid Argyll. I would urge all councillors to raise this at the next council meeting.

“This issue needs to be fixed.”

Further and more extensive action needed

A route through Glen Croe near to the existing road has been identified as the preferred option.

Various catch pits and fencing, as well as an emergency diversion route via the Old Military Road have been built since the first of many landslides occurred 13 years ago.

The search for a more permanent fix began due to increased slope failures. The transport agency is looking for a consultant to help “develop a scheme to provide a long-term, resilient improvement to the trunk road network at this location.”

Companies have until May 12 to register their interest. They will be required to provide designs for roads and bridges assessment work, help gain consents and tender contractors, as well as provide site supervision services.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “The resilience of the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful has deteriorated over the course of the last year. Between 2007 and mid 2020 we undertook proportionate methods to maintain connectivity. However the recent situation based on a series of landslides starting in August 2020 has called for further, and more extensive, action.

“We can assure local residents and road users that the situation is being treated with seriousness and urgency with measures to maintain connectivity through the Glen being expedited on a short, medium and long term basis.

“As part of our plans, we are proposing a medium term route and examining options in and around the forestry track on land owned by Scottish Ministers along with potential upgrades of the OMR local diversion. Depending on the consents required those proposals could be finalised in 18 months.

“Consultants are being procured to progress the design of options, and as with other projects to improve the trunk road network, there will be a need to complete the necessary engineering and environmental assessments as well as the statutory process to allow land to be acquired and the project constructed.

“The £25m figure for consultants fees is an initial estimate that has been benchmarked against other schemes. It covers the whole life of project development and delivery. The purpose of the procurement competition for a consultant is to secure value for money. As is our normal practice, Transport Scotland closely monitors progress and expenditure and employs value for money processes throughout scheme development and delivery.”

The agency is looking to take five candidates forward to tender stage.

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