The target date for the partial re-opening of the A 890 Stromeferry By-pass between Lochcarron and Kyle/Plockton has had to be delayed until Monday 27 February as the result of more extensive works being identified by the specialist contractors employed by The Highland Council to make safe the rockface and reopen the road.
At a public meeting at Achmore, near Plockton, last night, TRAC Engineering Ltd set out the challenges they are facing as they work round the clock to stabilise the rockface, clear rock, soil and vegetation from the hillside and install safety netting at a point 100 yards west of the Avalanche Shelter.
A landslide caused the closure of the road on 22 December, last year. Since then the Council has been providing a car and a passenger ferry to transport people between Lochcarron and Plockton/Kyle. An additional early morning train service between Strathcarron and Kyle has been ensuring that pupils from Applecross, Kishorn and Lochcarron get to Plockton High School on time.
Angus MacGregor, Operations Director of TRAC Engineering, told the meeting at Achmore that he has a squad of 40 workers sharing 24-hour working to make safe the unstable rockface. The Council has also engaged specialist consultants, URS, to advise them on the works required.
Mr MacGregor gave a slide presentation highlighting the challenges being faced by his workforce in removing rock and vegetation each day and making safe the crumbling rockface.
He explained that the instability of the rockface was such that the anticipated partial re-opening of the road could not be achieved by Friday 17 February. A more realistic target date was Monday 27 February.
He said: “Our detailed examination of the site has revealed the need for much more rock scaling, vegetation removal and additional stabilisation work than was originally envisaged. The health and safety of our workforce and the travelling public is paramount. We are making good progress, working round the clock, and we will recommend the reopening of the road – on a partial basis – when it is safe to do so.”
When the road is able to partially re-open, opening will be between7 am and 7 pm under traffic control and convoy.
Traffic will get priority between 7am – 9am and between 4pm – 7pm when there will be no work carried out. One-way traffic will be led 800 metres through the works at 10 mph by a convoy vehicle. At 7 am, the first convoy will travel from Lochcarron to Plockton/Kyle.
Between 9am and 4pm, vehicles will be allowed through in convoy as works continue. Delays of up to 30 minutes can be expected at these times.
The road will be closed between 7pm and 7 am to allow works to proceed overnight.
Both ferries and the morning train into Kyle will continue to operate for at least one week following the partial road opening. At this time the Council will review the position to establish if they are still needed.
The current arrangements for school transport - ie travel by train to school and bus and ferry home - will continue during the week beginning 27 February and will be re-assessed after the first week of the partial road opening..
Councillor John Laing, Chairman of the TEC Services Committee, said: “We are acutely aware of the inconvenience caused by the ongoing road closure and again want to thank the local communities for their patience and understanding in very trying times.
“Our contractor is working around the clock to make the rockface safe. Public safety is all important and this will be the over-riding issue when we decide when the road can partially re-open.”