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Time for 'decisive action' on Stromeferry bypass

By Scott Maclennan

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The leader of Highland Council has rebuked MSPs for repeatedly stating the Stromeferry bypass is a local authority problem, stating: “Right now I want to concentrate on a solution.”

Councillor Margaret Davidson made her remarks as the latest 12-week tranche of work on the Wester Ross bypass was due to be completed.

The latest work on the rockfall-prone stretch of road cost £1.2million. A longer term solution however remains elusive, largely down to the eye-watering multimillion-pound cost.

Prior to that, special measures to allow vehicles to drive along a section of the Inverness to Kyle railway line were employed. An earlier works' timetable saw huge delays stretching up to four hours for those trying to get through with a detour of up to 130 miles for those wishing to take another route.

Last week, the area's SNP MSP Gail Ross raised the issue in parliament and connectivity minister Paul Wheelhouse said twice that it was a local authority matter but that the government could offer “technical assistance.”

Mrs Ross later “welcomed” a commitment to work with the council on the troubled section of road adding: “It’s now time for decisive action on their part to take up the support offered by the Scottish Government and to come forward with a long term solution for this ongoing problem.”

But the council leader Margaret Davidson hit back saying: “I don’t need MSPs and MPs telling me this is a council problem what I want from them are proposals how we can solve this together.

“There just seems no end to this year after year. Millions have to be put aside to do programmes that disrupt the local people and only apply the next sticking plaster on a fundamentally extremely difficult project.

“If Highland Council and Scottish Government can’t put their heads together and find a solution for the people who live on the west, then that is really, really a problem.”

Some councillors like Derek Macleod have been arguing that the road should be trunked but when this was raised with Transport Scotland the response was described as “disappointing”.

Earlier a spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has no plans to reclassify the A890 as a trunk road” and in an advisory note stated the most recent review of the trunk road network was in 1994/5."

According to Transport Scotland the strategic transport network is to link major urban centres and population areas and linking international gateways, airports, ports and borders.

It is also for connecting remote communities, key tourist routes, facilitating freight routes and areas of economic activity and regeneration areas of national significance.

Cllr Macleod said: “Transport Scotland’s 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. To this may be added the length of diversion which the present A890 causes when it is blocked – as it often is.”

Cllr Davidson said: “I am seeing Mr Wheelhouse next week and he will be asked let us help find us a solution here, we will both see what we can do but, frankly, if this had been a flood we would have been offered help.

“But because they repeatedly say this is not a trunk road, well maybe we can revisit that in time, but right now I want to concentrate on a solution if we find that solution and it’s the right one.”

She added: “Goodness me, if they lived in Lochcarron or in Kyle I’d be getting a different response from them I can tell you now.”

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