2 May 2017
Highlands and Islands MSP, Rhoda Grant, who has been involved in community discussions about the Stromeferry bypass upgrade or replacement for several years, is still concerned that talks are getting nowhere fast and if they are not kept high on the agenda, they could just drift on and get kicked into the long grass.
The Stromeferry bypass has been subject to a number of landslide and rockfalls over the past few years causing closures, which result in a 140-mile diversion.
Mrs Grant said: "There have been all sorts of studies carried out as to how best to deal with this very serious issue.
"Let’s face it, apart from all the commuters that use this route, there is the school children who are transported along it every school day from Lochcarron and wider afield. I am really concerned that if we do not get a plan in place as to how best we can upgrade or reroute this particular road, then it will continue to be a case of an accident waiting to happen with serious consequences.
"Highland Council is in discussion with Transport Scotland to look at ways to fund the work, but progress has been slow. Worryingly people are being put at risk by this delay.”
Transport Scotland has indicated that if any Scottish Government assistance were to be considered for the scheme by way of funding it would only include those parts which satisfy the Transport Planning Objectives (TPO) to overcome the rock fall area.
The Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) has been redrafted to address only those areas which satisfy these revised TPOs.
Mrs Grant continued: "I have been advised the re-drafted STAG Part 1 Appraisal was completed in the Spring of last year. A meeting was held with Transport Scotland where it was confirmed that the report satisfied their requirements, clearly analysed the problems and set out the revised Transport Planning Objectives.
"Work was ongoing on the more detailed STAG Part 2 Appraisal to examine the remaining options which will include further meetings with Transport Scotland to present and agree the limits of the options. It was anticipated that the work required to refine the options, undertake the assessments and prepare the STAG Part 2 Appraisal was to be completed by Spring 2017."
Rhoda Grant went on: "I appreciate that finance is one of the main issues as about £100 million is required. The latest information I have on this issue, bearing in mind that the STAG Part 2 Appraisal was to be completed this spring, is that Highland Council are working with Hitrans and they in turn have commissioned the consultants Mott MacDonald Group Ltd to investigate the viability of a tram train operation – which may allow the sharing of a road rail solution to be brought back into the mix – this may offer a solution which is much more cost effective than many under consideration. However, this solution involve parts of the rail user community that have not yet been consulted. This must therefore lead to further consultation.”
"The road is the main link between Lochcarron and Kyle, Plockton and Skye. It is well used by commuters and school children who travel by coach every day to Plockton High School.
"Allied to this is the fact that this route carries traffic going to the Western Isles via Uig on Skye, so these factors should make this route a trunk road and a lasting solution needs to be agreed and a safer route built, otherwise we are continuing to put people who use this road at risk."
Concluding Rhoda Grant said “ I expect that any further decisions will not be made or taken until after the forthcoming local Council elections and a new Administration has been set up. However, as soon as possible thereafter I would like this issue to be brought to the table to allow a decision to be made with regards the final option and in order to allow this much needed improvements to be addressed once and for all.