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No plans to upgrade part of tourist route plagued by closures

By Scott Maclennan

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THE official response to calls from Highland Council to preserve a road that passes through some of Ross-shire's most stunning scenery and forms a major part of the NC500 has been called “hugely disappointing.”

Last week councillors argued the 73-mile A890 that stretches from Gorstan outside Garve to Auchtertyre on the west coast and includes the Stromeferry bypass needs to be made a trunk road to unlock funding vital for improvements.

The bypass has witnessed numerous dangerous rockfalls and landslides with plans for a long-term solution essential on ice because Highland Council won't countenance the multimillion-pound cost. Work under way at present forces long detours and requires motorists to use a stretch of train track.

Some fed-up councillors say the only remedy is for it to become part of Scotland’s trunk road network.

Wester Ross councillor Derek Macleod, whose ward encompasses the A890, said the public outcry over long delays site means the time is right to push for a permanent solution.

He said: “What we are talking about is just one episode in a long, long history of problems with that route. I do think there is a case to go to government to have the route trunked between Auchtertyre and Garve and it would link two existing strategic trunk roads [A835 and the A87] between the two ferry points at Uig and Ullapool. Basically, this has been ignored for too long."

But Transport Scotland (TS) said this week the route does not feature in plans to become part of the nation’s trunk road network. It told the North Star: “The Scottish Government has no plans to reclassify the A890 as a trunk road.”

It said the most recent review of the trunk road network was prompted by the reorganisation of local government in Scotland in 1994/5 and that the functions of the strategic transport network were linking major urban centres and population areas and linking international gateways, airports, ports and borders. Trunk routes are also dedicated to linking remote communities, key tourist routes, facilitating freight routes and areas of economic activity and regeneration areas of national significance.

Cllr Macleod said: “The response from TS is hugely disappointing. An awful lot has changed has changed since 1994/5 and it's long past time that TS did ‘undertake a formal review of the trunk road network.’”

He pointed out that in “TS' own words give rise to the need for this route: the A87 at Auchtertyre linking the A835 at Garve via the A890 to Achnasheen and the A832 Garve-Achnasheen to provide a cross-country link between the Ferry Ports at Uig and Ullapool, to be trunked. Linking essential Ferry Ports.”

Cllr Macleod added: “To this may be added the length of diversion which the present A890 gives rise to when it is blocked – as it often is. With the all the will in the world the best efforts of Highland Council, such blockages are likely to continue as the route crosses the unstable Moine Thrust geological feature. It presents a constant risk to the passing public and an ongoing drain on the Local Authority's resources.”

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