Nov 2nd, 2014
Yesterday R and I had to go to Glasgow. The A83 has been closed at the Rest for nearly a week now – and the official alternative being offered is to go by convoy down the old military road with delays of up to forty-five minutes. So as a test, R and I decided to go the other way, drive to Dunoon and take the ferry. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, partially because I love ferries (and hate waiting in queues of traffic) and partially because it is important to know how long it would take if we really really needed to do it that way (for example if the other route was completely closed).
So we tried it. It was fun but not very quick; waiting for the ferry added a bit of overhead, but the real time sink was the slow drive through Greenock and Gourouk to get to the motorway. All in all it added about an extra hour to our journey (to the East side of Glasgow) – obviously there would be more benefit if you were actually going to the Greenock area. The ferry itself was super though – I went up on deck and took some photos while R hid in the car exploring the joys of 4G on his new iPad. It was really windy and bouncy with the spray coming over the side and catching a couple of tourists standing at the front of the boat by surprise…
Anyway – all was then well until we left to come home about 7:30pm. It had been raining off and on in Glasgow all day, but nothing too bad, and according to traffic Scotland the A83 was still open on the convoy system. But as we got to Loch Lomond it started to rain harder, and harder and harder with more and more surface water on the road. Around Luss I know that we lose internet access – so I had one final check on traffic Scotland and Twitter and all still seemed to be well. By Arrochar, the weather was shocking and we were running into more flooding on the road – nothing that the Land Rover wouldn’t easily handle, but I wouldn’t have wanted to try it in an ordinary car. When we arrived at the Rest, it was obvious that cars were being turned back – but we were told by someone coming the other way that they would let four wheel drive vehicles through. To cut a long story short – when we got to the front of the queue we were told that they had closed the whole thing and we would have to turn back (I’ll come to my observations about this at the end).
So we did turn back. At this point we had several choices a) go back to Glasgow and overnight with N b) go back to Arrochar and try to find a hotel c) take a 55 mile detour via A82 or d) walk the last eight miles. For us, a) and b) were basically out because had the cats waiting at home (and Tora was not well with a sore eye), d) was a long way in the dark and pouring rain and c) ran the severe risk that the A82 would get shut as well (it runs right along the side of the Loch and there are major ongoing road works at Pulpit rock). We decided with many misgivings to try c).
I can only describe the conditions on the road as atrocious. The rain was coming down as hard as I have seen it in UK and the road was awash with water, in places several feet deep. Every time we went through a patch of flood the water came right over the car and the visibility went down to zero. We crawled at 30 mph or less along the lochside and past the roadworks – by this time there were hardly any other vehicles on the road. After Crianlarich the conditions got slightly better as the road moved away from the loch, only to worsen again when we got past Inverary and joined Loch Fyne. By this time it was nearly 11pm, still pouring with rain and black as pitch.
Coming on to the last stage, I caught a glimpse of a diversion sign just as we went past it – it had said something about road to Lochgoilhead closed. At this point we decided that being within six miles of home we were going to drive on as far as we could, and if we found that the road was closed, park up the Land Rover and walk the rest of the way. As it turned out, there was only a little surface water on the road, and we got home at 11:30pm to find the cats waiting for us and Tora’s eye much improved.
So just a few comments on this whole affair. Firstly – it is a woeful situation to allow the two roads which are critical to the infrastructure of Argyll to get into such a state. It is clear to me that just putting nets above the Rest is not going to fix the problem – to my mind they need to convert the old military road into a proper two lane road that can take traffic without this ridiculous convoy idea. Secondly, specific to last night – there should have been a police presence at Tarbert (at the very least) and notification signs out back towards Glasgow to say that the road was being closed. In addition, I would suggest that closing the relief road when they did forced people to take another route which was hazardous in the extreme. I don’t think Argyll is ever going to be able to attract non-tourism business until it can sort out some basic infrastructure issues – one (as I think I have ranted on before) is the broadband/mobile internet issue, and the other is transport.
Anyway – all in all an exciting day