Arran’s Infrastructure – A History

A resident….
19 January 2018

Arran Infrastructure

In the beginning was the Firth of Clyde. An island appeared alongside Kintyre to form Kilbrannan Sound, uninhabited, it just popped up from the earth’s core. A hairy, skin-clad creature floated over on a log with his family and took up residence. He announced himself as the King of a reign – which became corrupted to Aran and later to make it different to the place he came from he added an R and so Arran was that island. More people arrived and after a time the King decided that moving about the coast on logs was too dangerous because life jackets had not yet been invented. And so a path was made around the island. And it was good. And the peasants of  the villages and the horses of the fields did pass and repass upon the path and it became a track. The King was pleased and the villagers were content.

Years passed. And it came to pass that a wheel was invented and wheeled vehicles called carts came into use, and they too were good. And the track – which was good – became a road and the carts did pass and re-pass together with the horses and the oxen of the fields and the people were pleased. And the King knew that it was good. And the people of the villages and the horses and oxen of the fields did pass and repass upon the road which after time needed more stones added to fill the puddles and the holes and the people who passed and re-passed did keep the road in repair.

The King appointed landlords and created peasants and invented a feudal system. The landlords were content and the peasants did not revolt and the King knew that this was very good.

Time passed and some peasants were banished by the landlords to a foreign land and the people were fewer and the road, that had been a track, which had been a path, was used to drive sheep and it became wider and the landlords could see that it was good. And they caused the lowly peasants to add stone and to drive more carts along the road. After a time industry did spring up upon the islands to the east of Arran and horseless carriages called cars were made and used to carry the rich and influential across the land.

And the cars came to Arran and passed and re-passed along the road and the landlords could see that it was good. After a time the road became worn and the landlords could see that it needed repair. And the landlords caused the peasants to add stone and rock to the road and fill the puddles. The cars could go faster and it was good.

And the motor cars of the road and the horses of the field and the sheep (and occasionally the peasants) could pass and repass upon the road. And it was good.

After a time greater engines were made and fitted to carts and the carts became lorries and the lorries could carry huge loads and the people could see that it was good. And the landlords of Arran caused lorries to come to the land from the islands to the east and they did pass and repass upon the road. And the road became worn and tired and the landlords seeing this, caused the peasants to redouble their efforts to fill the holes and repair the road as best they could. And the landlords could see that it was good.

And after a time together with the cars and the lorries came all manner of vehicles to the island, charabancs, tractors of the field and greater lorries, and bicycles, and motorcycles and so forth. And the landlords could see that it was good.

After a time the landlords became old and died and estates were caused to pay tax to the politicians of the islands to the east. And in lieu of the tax the landlord families did surrender the roads and the peasants to the Argyll and Bute council, for the council could see a steady revenue stream from the tax, for the peasants would repair the road and their taxes would pay for it as well. And the council could see that it would be good.

And the lorries came and together with the cars and buses and bicycles, motorcycles and tractors of the field together with horses and some peasants and a few animals, passed and repassed upon the road and the road became worn and tired. And the cars became broken and stuck and the lorries made greater holes and the council were much concerned. And the council collected more tax and caused the peasants to place more stone upon the road, and it was mended and it was good. And the council also could see that it was good. And so it came to pass that the council named the road ‘B’ so that all would know that it would permit all manner of vehicles in the land to pass and re-pass upon the road. And it was good.

And the lorries became bigger and heavier and the road stayed the same and the holes became larger and the road did crumble, because it had no foundation. And the council did say ‘Oh Woe is us’ for the road is an B road and it is damaged by the vehicles that pass and repass and they wrung their hands in anguish and did cast about their minds to see what could be done. And they caused the peasants to redouble their redoubled efforts to repair the road. And they started to use tarmacadam – a new invention. And they spread tarmacadam upon the road and smoothed the surface and the traffic passed faster. It had been expensive, but it was good.

But the lorries still did come from the islands to the east and did wear and break the road and cause holes. And the rains did wash away the stones and the tarmacadam and the roads and the sides of the roads did break off and fill the ditches.

And it came to pass that because the Argyll and Bute Council kept secret the problem of the road and their publicity was good, that a neighbouring greedy council not knowing the mysterious intricacy of sums and mathematics did bid for the right to take taxes from the peasants of Arran. For that council could see the advantages of leisure and travel and their rich people on holiday and the passing and repassing upon the road and indulging themselves. And Argyll and Bute Council (who could now do sums) thought: ‘Perhaps we can palm off this millstone about our necks upon the North Ayrshire Council as they are keen but as yet unknowledgeable of sums.’ And the Argyll and Bute Council did offer token resistance to the North Ayrshire Council in its bid to own Arran. And both councils could see that it was good. And it came to pass that without moving a thousandth of an inch, the island of Arran moved from Argyll and Bute to North Ayrshire and both councils could see that it was good.

And more lorries came and together with the cars and coaches and buses and bicycles, motorbikes and tractors of the field, the horses and sheep and the odd peasant, passed and repassed upon the road and the road became even more worn and tired. And more cars became broken and stuck and the lorries made greater holes and too became stuck and the new council were much concerned.

And it came to pass that the EU caused all the roads of the EU to be able to carry lorries and vehicles of up to 44 tonnes. And the road became more used. And the North Ayrshire council nearly, but not quite, learning to do sums could see that this was good. But the lorries of the motorway did come and pass and repass upon the road and did break it and the rain came and did fill the holes and the lorries then did stamp upon the holes and spray the roadstone out and the holes did become bigger. And the coaches and buses and the cars and the motorbikes did assist and soon the road became many big holes held together with pieces of tarmacadam.

The North Ayrshire Council did throw its hands in the air and cry ‘Oh Woe is us, for the road is broken and we know not what is breaking it and it is expensive.’ (for now the council was learning how to do sums.) And the North Ayrshire Council despairing of the cost of road maintenance had a brainwave. If we are to take away the B road designation and substitute for it a C road designation, then we will not have to maintain the road. And the council could see that this was a good idea. It was made so. And it was good.

But the lorries of the motorway and the coaches of the capitol and the traffic of all types did not know this and the road became worse. And springs did break and the council as owners of the road were responsible. And the people cried out: ‘You are the owner of the road and you have not maintained it and now you have caused my springs to break. It is your fault.’ And the council were caused to pay compensation. And the people could see that this was good. And this compensation doth come from the roads budget and there is less money to repair the roads. And the council cried out once more ‘Oh woe is us.’

And the peasants of Arran did refuse to mend the road for nothing and the council could see that they needed to raise tax and get a contractor to lay more tarmacadam. And from time to time this was done. And the council was much relieved. And the trees did grow upon the island and the forestry commission did say unto the council ‘We will need to cut down our trees for they are old and ready for harvest and we must move them to the coast so that they may be carried away to the mills. We have built miles of scenic forestry roads in this area of outstanding natural beauty to transport the timber to the road in the biggest lorries we can use and we would like to build a slipway near to where the trees do grow and take the trees that way. And we will lay waste to the trees in this area of outstanding natural beauty and leave stumps and dods and we shall churn up the ground in doing so. But the slipway will not be big and it will be left afterward for the use of the peasants and the visitors.’

And the council did say, ‘Nay, you cannot build an slipway because this is an area or outstanding natural beauty and the slipway would be an eyesore even though it will be a mere thirty yards by twenty yards blending in on the shore when you have finished and gone away.’ So the Forestry Commission did say ‘So be it. We will cause many 44 tonne lorries to pass and repass from the forest on one side of the island to Brodick slipway, on the other side of the island over the Machrie Road and the String Road. It is to be at least 15 lorries per day and we are sorry if the lorries doth break up the road but there it is.’ And the council did agree. And the Machrie Road and the String Road, which was a path and then a track before it became a road and without foundation did shudder in anticipation. Now as we know the roads of Arran are made of paths, then tracks, then roads made from those tracks, with holes filled and refilled and then with a tarmacadam top, which the council doth think is good. And the road that was a path, then a track, then a road and then a B road and then a C road is the truth. For the council assures us it is good and is content.

And the EU in their warm offices and basking in a lack of knowledge and understanding of road matters across the continent doth say ‘You shall allow the lorries of the motorway and the coaches of the capitol and the cars and motorbikes and tractors of the field of up to 44 tonnes to pass and repass upon your highways, and you are to strengthen your bridges to take these mighty vehicles. But if the bridges are too weak then you are to impose a weight limit to save the bridges from being fractured and prevent our Eurocrats from potentially being pitched to their deaths. And you are to strengthen the bridges with haste.’ And the Council complied. And the great lorries of the motorway and the coaches of the capitol did continue to come to Arran with their great weight and continue to pass and repass upon the road. And the road was sore destroyed.

And the peasants of the land and the animals of this land and strange miniature animals with long necks of a sub Saharan land far off, did struggle and fall into the great holes that were the road. And the peasants were much aggrieved. Other councils of other lands and on islands of the EU do note that they are able to limit the
weight of lorries to save the roads from destruction and do restrict the weight of such vehicles. Some even have built weak bridges with weight restrictions to defend their roads. And their road maintenance bill is reduced…… And it is good……. And some do fail to repair the bridges when they can and they do keep the weight restrictions and keep the great lorries of the motorway and the coaches of the capitol away from off their roads – but then the North Ayrshire Council hath only just begun to master sums so other matters of simple complexity shall have to wait…….

Remember us all that a committee, (or council) is a group of people who collectively will decide to take a course of action (and vehemently defend that course of action) that no one individual on that committee would entertain for a moment……. And this is good???

So come on boys and girls, all joshing aside, isn’t it about time that someone had the guts to address what really destroys our Arran roads. For the most part they have no decent foundation, there is precious little money to repair them and when they are repaired we allow excessively heavy vehicles to set about destroying them immediately. If we start by restricting the weight of all vehicles to a sensible figure and enforce that limit, the roads maintenance bill which is already excessive and cannot be maintained, will be able to effect repairs which last a bit longer and thereby the overall standard of roads may slowly improve. Whereas the alternative is to accept the EU edict that 44 tonne lorries can pass and repass on all roads, in the full knowledge that, just like a weak bridge, the road cannot take such loads. We know, of course, that the failure of a road is not so spectacular as the failure of a bridge, but the cost of widespread road failure is considerably greater than the failure of a bridge. Perhaps the installation of a 15 tonne limit bridge either side of the exits from the two ferries could be an answer……