Lights out on Loch Lomond

A82 pulpit rock

By Mike Travers


Could this be the most expensive stretch of road in the country? Originally awarded at a cost of £9.2m, the contract for a 400-metre section on the banks of Loch Lomond has at last been completed – a year behind schedule and with a possible battle looming over costs.

The ‘temporary’ traffic lights that were installed on the A82 at Pulpit Rock in the 1980s were finally made redundant last week when contractor McLaughlin & Harvey opened the road to two-way traffic for the first time in more than 30 years. Transport minister Derek Mackay described the project as “breathtaking” and a “significant engineering achievement”.


Aerial view of the twisting route.

The design and build job involved improvements including constructing a viaduct structure, rock cutting slopes and widening the carriageway. Transport Scotland originally planned to close the road entirely on both sides of the site for 14 weeks but the contractor came up with a series of overnight closures to reduce the impact on tourism, commercial traffic and local communities. However, the programme was plagued by engineering difficulties, extreme weather and landslips on the restricted site.

In January this year, in response to a Freedom of Information request from Scottish Plant, a spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said the works were “extremely vulnerable” to unplanned events and the nature of both the site and the works limited any potential for increased labour/plant and concurrent working.

“Consequently, anything which upsets the sequence of work (such as extreme weather events) tends to result in an impact on overall programme.”

On the question of who would be liable for additional costs, she said: “Construction contracts of this type make provision for additional costs to be borne by both the employer and the contractor based on risk allocation. In many instances, the net effect of things such as claims, variations, risk allowances, charges and contingencies generally remains uncertain until completion of the works or when the final account is settled.

“The contractor has incurred additional costs, some of which are recoverable under the contract but presently the project remains within budget,” the statement continued.

Attention on the A82 now switches to improvements between Tarbet and Inverarnan, a 10-mile stretch that ‘sandwiches’ Pulpit Rock and which hugs the shores of Loch Lomond for most of the route. Design proposals are expected this year.

Watch a time lapse video of critical parts of the construction programme.


Article posted 11/5/2015