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Scottish Highlands road proves worthy winner of Saltire prize

A830 scheme sees off 14 other projects in Scotland.

Improvements to the A830 from Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh in the Scottish Highlands, have won the prestigious 2010 Saltire Society Award for Civil Engineering.

The A830 project went head to head with 14 other Scottish projects and schemes to scoop the coveted award - a collaboration between the ICE and the Saltire Society aimed to recognise Scotland’s outstanding engineering projects over the last two years.

Projects entered ranged from the advanced techniques used to dry out the Forth Road bridge cables to flood prevention, power and water schemes and projects upgrading roads, rail and airports.

Presenting the 2010 award, outgoing ICE President Professor Paul Jowitt said all the entries demonstrated true excellence in civil engineering in Scotland, but that the award had to go to the A830 Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh improvement project in recognition of the skill of design and the high quality of construction used to deliver this major road improvement in a difficult and sensitive terrain.

On time and to budget

The £23M project was also completed on time and to budget and a received a positive reaction from the local community and media.

The A830 trunk road connecting Fort William and Mallaig is the principal access route to the rural area west of Loch Linnhe and is the only road providing access to the villages of Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig.

The road plays a vital role in connecting communities, encouraging tourism and maintaining the economic development of the area. It passes through an area of outstanding natural beauty, with 40% located in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Also in places it is in very close proximity to the Fort William to Mallaig railway line.

The new alignment therefore had to be fitted within the footprint of the existing road as far as possible; alternative routes having been rejected at feasibility stage due to their cost and adverse impact on the environment.

Constructing the road proved extremely challenging, involving the removal of 150,000m³ of peat, 350,000m³ of rock, the construction of a new bridge, three reinforced arch structures, a 180m long retaining wall and rock cuttings up to 17m high.

Keeping adjacent road safe

All the work had to be undertaken whilst maintaining the safe operation of the road and adjacent railway and without adversely affecting the environment.

Jowitt commented: “The way the new road has been designed and constructed minimises the impact on the natural environment and in places further enhances it.  There are many examples showing just how much effort was put into the environmental considerations to ensure that the road blends harmoniously into the natural landscape - it is for this reason that the A830 project was also awarded a commendation in the Environmental category of the awards.”

He concluded: “The Saltire Awards are a showcase for Scottish civil engineering and each year they celebrate the very best projects. We’ve seen professionalism and talent in conservation, construction, design, environment and innovation. The vast range of expertise, skills and knowledge across Scotland is evident.”

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