Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Glenbeg: A Different View

From Tom Colville:

The beautiful pictures taken at Glenbeg on Friday recorded a unique and proud moment for so many. They also signalled the commencement of a new and repetitive risk to the wider economy of this peninsular.

Last Monday around midday, along the tortuous single track road from Salen, the sole vital access for doctors, emergency services, care workers, first responders, ambulance services as well as for small local deliveries, postal services, bus route and much more besides, visitors and residents who enjoy this unspoilt place will have met a huge bulk tipper, a returning delivery wagon. Of a size and type seldom seen along our narrow, blind, twisting haphazardly graded peninsular road - however common along motorways and the A9 - this six-axle bulk tipper had presumably just discharged malting grain at Glenbeg.

Far be it for anyone local to Ardnamurchan to be seen as ‘raining on yesterday’s parade’, but now the plant is open a reality check for local people seems timely.

One miracle has happened already: somehow this distillery has been built without life changing incident along the roads that lead to it from the A82.

This slow operation industry will attract a steady flow of heavier traffic which must now become commonplace. The law of averages dictates that West Ardnamurchan’s residents and visitors will too often discover they really do live on an island. Councillors and local planners, perhaps blinded by wealth, and by the prospect of local spend and local jobs all powered so greenly, must have discounted this potential for hiatus. Without their vote the distillery proposal for a place with such restricted access to very heavy LGVs could never have passed planning.

A fully loaded bulk tipper truck of the type spotted on Monday will weigh upwards of thirty five tons. It might weigh 44 tons, but ‘pray’ don’t let’s even go there. The nearest mobile crane capable of lifting a wagon of this sort will be stationed near Glasgow or Inverness, 4-5 hours distant on a good day. With poor foundations and limited hard standing space for stabilising jacks, positioning any crane along many parts of the B8007 will be risky enough. The work to recover an articulated lorry of this size, once it has overbalanced and its bulk cargo has shifted, may well require the malting grain to be fully discharged first, perhaps introducing fresh spores to this pristine area of prevailing salty westerly winds?

Should just one loaded wheel on just one of these trucks be misplaced or slip by a few centimetres? Or - heaven forbid - when winter water, frost and dark take a toll once more, should the road edge crumble and suddenly disintegrate?

Our ancient lifeline peninsular road was never designed for this. Is it only a few older highlanders and those with experience as professional transport drivers that can understand what may occur? Surely they were consulted?  Did anyone listen?

Was planning for this uncalled-for development not conditional?  What became of the notion that this malting grain should arrive by sea?

Editor's note: the trucks shown are illustrative; they are not the one described in the text.


  1. Whilst reading the paragraphs above, I was thinking that deliveries by sea would be the most obvious logistic to the problem Most distilleries are places close to the coast so investment in a common pumping system and shipping seems obvious to me: but then I am just an engineer, not an economist.

  2. This really is a reality check. I am incredulous that planning permission was granted if these vehicles are to service the distillery. The succession of cars that I've encountered on visits that head towards the Acharacle turn from Glenborrodale at inordinate speed at 5pm/ end of work was quite bad enough. What will happen now will be an acceleration of road widening which will destroy the character of the peninsula.

  3. As my grandmother used to say, you can't have your cake and eat it.

  4. The weights are judged over the axles, most carry a weight of a max of just over 7 ton. So, if any damage is caused to the highway it would most likely be surface faults. Bulk tippers are mostly less than 40ft trailers, the 45s used for other deliveries tend to be a bit too long for both Resipole & Camas Inas. With these 2 in mind & the seemingly endless construction of semi habited adobes around the peninsula perhaps the planners who accepted the plan should consider sorting the roads out, though I do advise drivers of larger trucks to use the Lochailort route rather than ferry. Personally I would advocate speed restrictions on all commercial vehicles, including vans, especially at this time of year when so many people who use our roads would be better suited to a public Transport system we haven't got. These roads take no prisoners & I have faith in the professionalism of those who drive articulated vehicles. Having spoke to many of them recently I feel we should have little to worry about.

  5. This topic could too easily move off into the realm of complicated 'need to know' transport engineering.
    For those still interested - Two factors: 1 : Bulk tipping trailers have their rearmost axle right at the rear of the chassis to ensure the whole thing does not overbalance backwards when being discharged. 2: With all articulated tri-axle trailers the turning radius of any chassis will be around the area where the most heavily laden axle of the three still supports the most weight. On modern air suspended trailers the possible vertical travel of each axle is greatly limited by the suspension system used, and by the speed at which air within the 6 suspension units may equalise as any ramp is negotiated. On really uneven gradients wheels on some axles may even partially lift off. The remaining axles/wheels will then support the load. This sudden reduction of "footprint" is the factor that can destroy both the trailers and any poorly graded road they are run along.

    On the B8006 between Salen and Glenbeg there are many sudden ramps and drops which will challenge and defeat the modern autobahn developed triaxle air support system. There are of course a few more sudden ramps and drops between Loch Ailort, Salen and Strontian on the A 861.

    Through any hollow, as the artic' tractor unit climbs out again, the turning radius of a bulk trailer will load the rearmost axle...on humps the road surface will load the front most tri axle first.The turning radius changes. For any LGV driver the assessment of where the trailer's wheels might run around an uneven corner comes with years of experience. Few roads are like the B8006. Few drivers of todays LGV's will have much experience of driving very heavy loads along realigned ancient cart tracks, for which these wagons were never intended. These drivers do not have much choice...they surely deserve our admiration each time they manage to fulfill the contract and emerge upright and unscathed...

  6. These huge lorries are seen as a life line by our elected representatives and I doubt that many of them live along side the roads that are being destroyed and then repaired a great cost to the taxpayer, just wait until the winter!
    Corpach is a prime example, around 70 lorries a day can descend on the sawmills, racing against time to get the most out of their limited running time and destroying our roads.
    Do politicians really acknowledge the destruction to the environment, the noise and the curse that these commercial vehicles inflict on other road users all in the name of profit.
    There must have been, in the planning application, mention of how many lorry journeys were expected to travel to the distillery X 2 and surely your councillors and the wider highland council have a contingency plan in case one of these monsters breakdowns or destroys a bridge, I dare say that it will be the taxpayer as usual and not the lorry companies that will foot the bill for repairs/upgrading of the road and bridges. What about emergencies services?
    Blinded by the promise of a few jobs and no doubt funded by the taxpayer or lottery grants the distillery does seem to be some richman's personal dream, probably dreamt up in a haze of good whisky.