Page last updated at 05:20 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 06:20 UK

Landslides becoming more frequent

A85
Mud and rocks swept over the A85 in Glen Ogle in 2004

Landslides can have a devastating effect on Scotland's road network.

So far no one has been killed by a landslide, but predictions suggest they will become more frequent.

So are we doing enough to prevent them from happening?

BBC Scotland's Euan Mclwraith has been investigating.


Landslides when they start are unstoppable.

Hundreds of tonnes of rock and earth powering down a slope carrying everything in its wake. And for people caught in Glen Ogle in 2004, like Stuart Webster, it was terrifying.

"It was the noise to start with, you just heard the rumbling and you looked up and there was hundreds and hundreds of tonnes of stuff coming down in less than a minute," he recalled.

"And it came down straight across the road and it hit a telegraph pole and the flashes were coming off the telegraph pole.

"It was just horrendous."

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Experts have predicted an increase in the number of landslides in Scotland

Ian Oates also witnessed the landslide: "There was just a wall of mud, water, rocks came across about 20ft high just in front of us and we just thought - this is it."

So just what causes a hillside or a mountain to slip?

Lawrence Shackman works for Transport Scotland: "It's a combination of things really. It's the angle of the slope.

"It's the amount of water in the slope.

"It's the material which normally overlies the rock underneath and it's a combination of the intensity of the rainfall, the different materials on the slope and it's just that pinnacle where the material of the slope is mobilised and comes down."

And landslides are set to become more frequent.

Extensive monitoring

Alan Motion, of the Met Office, explained: "The United Kingdom climate projections that were issued in the middle of last month indicate that in terms of, particularly the west of Scotland, we'll see an increase in winter rainfall.

"And that in turn will obviously have an impact on the landslide situation where you've got lengthier periods of rain during the winter and also the potential for more intense rainfall also."

A landslip at the Rest and be Thankful virtually cut off Argyll from the rest of the country in 2007.

Virginia Sumsion of the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar said the effect was enormous: "The last landslide was completely devastating to our business and a lot of businesses in the area.

"The A83 is our main lifeline with the rest of Scotland and with our customers.

Digger
Diggers spent days removing the rubble from the A85

"Without that road link, we are in serious difficulties in terms of getting our goods to the customers."

So are we doing enough?

Dynamiting every hillside in Scotland simply isn't practical and many of our roads are simply built on dangerous routes.

High-tech monitoring is carried out on some high risk mountains.

Lawrence Shackman of Transport Scotland said extensive monitoring is underway: "You can be very pro-active in terms of what you do.

"In physical terms you can put signs up to warn drivers, you could go out an perhaps realign roads at the higher end of the spectrum, but really a lot of that would be very unaffordable on the length of network that's likely to be exposed to a landslide hazard.

"What we are trying to do is be a bit more pro-active and try and use Met Office data, rain gauge information about what's happening before a landslide happens to try to predict if we possibly can do that there's a chance that could be a landslide and give more appropriate warnings in advance of them actually happening.

"That work is in progress and will take quite a few years to reach a conclusion."



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