Adverse weather has delayed the progress of contractors commissioned to make safe an unstable rockface on the A 890 Stromeferry Bypass and the hoped for partial reopening of the road on Monday 27 February has had to be further delayed.
The disappointing news was reported to The Highland Council by contractors Trac Engineering Ltd, whose 40-strong staff were not able to make progress over the weekend due to high winds and snow which forced their withdrawal from the site.
The work required to make safe the rockface at a point 100 yards west of the Avalanche Shelter is much greater than the contractor envisaged and, combined with the adverse weather conditions, has delayed the project.
No new date for partial re-opening is being given in light of the unpredictable nature of the works needed and the weather.
The Council will continue the passenger and car ferry services, which operate between Lochcarron and Stromeferry. An early morning train taking pupils from Applecross, Kishorn and Lochcarron to Plockton High School will also continue.
The Council has received confirmation that the Glenelg car ferry will be available until 17 March and officials are trying to source another ferry, should the road remain closed beyond this date.
It is also discussing with Network Rail the necessary measures to divert traffic on to the railway line.
Councillor John Laing, Chairman of the Transport Environment and Community Services Committee, said he fully appreciated the real disappointment felt by local residents at news of the further delay in reopening the route between Lochcarron and Plockton/Kyle, which has been closed since 22 December, last year.
He said: “The adverse weather and the unstable nature of the rockface are combining to make this a very difficult challenge indeed. I know people want a target date for re-opening but given our recent experiences it would be unwise to do so and raise expectations.
“Residents should be assured that we are doing everything we can to get the road back open, even on a partial basis, and we will keep everyone as closely advised of progress as possible.
“We have the Glenelg ferry until 17 March and we will investigate every avenue available to us to provide ferry cover beyond this date.”
At public meetings at Achmore, near Plockton, and Lochcarron last week 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.
Angus MacGregor, Operations Director of TRAC Engineering, said today: “The weather delays to rock scaling and drilling along with some more geological challenges have made it impossible to achieve the partial opening target date of Monday 27 February.”