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Critics claim A9 landslip was missed by maintenance teams

A landslip on the A9 near Helmsdale was undetected by Bear Scotland, a local councillor claims.

The landslip, near Helmsdale in August has resulted in temporary traffic lights after a section of the road embankment was washed into the field below.

Speaking to the BBC, Highland councillor Matthew Reiss claimed Bear Scotland’s safety inspection regime had not picked up the problem and it was fortunate the landslip had not been a more serious incident.

The criticism comes after Scottish MP Jamie Stone raised concerns over the condition the A9 earlier this month.

In response a Bear Scotland spokesperson told the BBC: “As soon as the small slip south of Helmsdale was reported to Bear Scotland an emergency response was immediately triggered, with geotechnical specialists inspecting the slope.

“The slip has not damaged the road and the single lane working was introduced as a temporary safety measure. A full repair has been designed and teams are due to begin construction at the start of October which will reopen the A9 to both lanes.”

the embankment at the a9 south of helmsdale

the embankment at the a9 south of helmsdale

A geotechnical assessment of the failure has been undertaken and design work is underway to enable repairs to be undertaken

Reiss told BBC Scotland that local people had tole him that the landslip may have happened two or three months ago. Reiss said: “I have been told by Bear that there are weekly safety inspections of the road.

“But these simply haven’t worked because it is quite obvious that the landslip has been undiscovered, and thousands upon thousands of vehicle drivers have travelled this road unaware the landslip is right next to the A9.”

“I don’t want to be critical of local Bear staff, they are doing their best. But what needs urgent improvement is the safety inspection regime because it clearly has not worked here. It’s fortunate there was not a serious accident.”

A spokesperson for Bear Scotland added: “The northern A9 is a vital lifeline route and receives the same level of inspection as any other trunk road in Scotland in accordance with the requirements of our term contract with Transport Scotland.

“We have teams who are dedicated to completing safety inspections every seven days from a moving vehicle to note any defects which are then programmed for repair.

“Additional landslide patrols are also deployed on the route during heavy rain to check for any issues. The recent incident on the A9 is a rare occurrence particularly where the road is to a relatively modern standard.”


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