News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate

Milestone for the A82 project

The final tree felling work at Glen Righ near Fort William is now complete and marks a big milestone in the A82 project - one of our most challenging projects to date. 

glen righ jan keeping road clean

The A82 links Glasgow to Inverness through the Great Glen in the West Highlands.  The section between Glencoe and Inverness is bordered by heavily forested steep slopes, many of which are part of the National Forest Estate (NFE).

The trees were planted nearly 100 years ago – when the road was used considerably less than it is now - and are now mature and at the stage where felling is required. If the trees  aren’t felled, the risk of them being blown down during storm events and causing unplanned road closures will increase into the future. Much of the harvesting is also very difficult and challenging due to the proximity of the trees to the A82.

a82 glen righ

And it’s not just felling and removing the trees; a large part of the programme involves making the hillside safe, which can mean removing loose material, bringing down large, unsafe boulders or securing boulder fields and making sure that they are stable.

rocks on road 

The operations will improve the resilience of the A82 against extreme weather and storm events. The harvesting operations alone (over an estimated 10-15 year period) represent an investment of around £16M into the A82 corridor.

In recognition of this we set up the A82 Project, which works closely with Transport Scotland to safely manage operations within the A82 corridor.  Work has been successfully delivered to date at Glen Righ (Corran Ferry), Loch Lochy and at Invermoriston.

The project really began late in 2011 with the start of operations at Glen Righ near Fort William. The successful completion of Glen Righ is due in part to good planning but also to the hard work delivered by both the harvesting and geotechnical teams involved. The assistance and support of Transport Scotland, the Police and other key stakeholders has been hugely important and the benefits of these strong working relationships over the past four years cannot be under estimated.

The operations have also required patience, good internal and external communications and at times, advanced ways of working like the use of helicopters and drones.  It has proved to be a huge learning experience for everybody involved and the lessons learned will be of use to anybody else embarking on combined harvesting and slope stability operations elsewhere on the NFE.

new duffy winch extracting large log

helicopter ops glen righ carrying fence posts

Highlights

There have been a number of highlights in the project to date including:

  • the successful removal of Rock Crag 4 at Glen Righ in 2011. This was the opening operation which involved a planned four day closure of the A82 to safely remove the rock, which weighed around 200 tonnes. The operation was carried out successfully after a huge amount of communication and planning, demonstrating the ‘can do’ attitude of our staff and raising the profile of A82 operations enormously;
  • the engagement of a specialist skyline contractor. The award of a long term contract for skyline harvesting above the A82 to Duffy Skylining was an important early step. Duffy Skylining have since proven themselves to be an extremely capable, competent and reliable resource. Our staff have had to upskill as the project has progressed and for Duffy Skylining it has been no different - adapting and honing their felling and extraction methods as the harvesting has progressed. One of the most memorable incidents happened earlier this year and involved a rockfall which closed the A82 at Loch Ness. Whilst this incident demonstrated the impact of extreme events on the road, it was dealt with very efficiently.

Operations will be continuing above the A82 alongside Loch Lochy. Completion of this badly windblown area is expected by March 2016 and marks another milestone, the completion of all A82 Project Operations in Lochaber Forest District! After that, the focus will move to Inverness, Ross and Skye Forest District and further combined slope stability and timber harvesting operations alongside Loch Ness. A temporary catch fence will be erected here early in 2016 in advance of the harvesting operations which could yet prove to be the most difficult of them all!